China’s meat importers fret about delays as port runs virus tests

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BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s meat importers fear clearing delays and a hit to demand after one of the country’s major ports began requiring coronavirus tests for all meat and seafood containers to prevent contamination.

Tianjin on the northern coast, the primary port for Beijing, started testing batches from every arriving container on Monday, two importers and an official briefed on the matter said.

Tianjin port and customs officials did not respond to calls seeking comments.

The government of Shanghai, another major port for meat imports, said on Wednesday its customs would strengthen inspections of imported meat, seafood and fresh fruit and vegetables.

It did not specify if it would also carry out coronavirus tests.

China is the world’s top meat importer and many meat exporting nations, including the United States and Brazil, have seen thousands of cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, among meat plant workers.

Authorities usually conduct food safety tests on a random sample of about 10% of frozen meat shipments, Grace Gao, manager at Dalian-based meat importer Goldrich International, said.

Now, every container in Tianjin is opened and boxes pulled out for coronavirus tests, she said.

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