BEEF City has one again been delisted as an export abattoir by China, as tensions between Australia and China ramp up.
BEEF City has one again been delisted as an export abattoir by China, as tensions between Australia and China ramp up. Zizi Averill

Beef City banned from exporting to China as tensions rise

BEEF City has once again been delisted as an export abattoir by China, as tensions between Australia and China ramp up.

Beef City is one of four Australian abattoirs delisted by China, meaning products from the facility can't be imported into China. 

The other plants impacted are the meat works at Kilcoy, Dimore and the Northern Co-operative Meat Company at Casino.

Beef City, which is owned by JBS Australia, processes about 1134 cattle a day. 

Food Leaders Australia general manager Bruce McConnel said it was unknown yet whether the ban on Beef City was because of a breach of protocol or an act of political retribution.

"The technical reasons have not been made available," Mr McConnel said.

"We're not sure whether there has been a breach of protocol or if it's pure political retaliation.

"We're awaiting details on how to alleviate tensions."

Mr McConnel said he did not expect the decision to have an immediate impact on jobs.

"It all depends on how long this ban is in place," he said.

"All these facilities impacted have very diverse markets… they still need to kill animals due to high demand in other markets like Singapore and the United States.

"It's not catastrophic, but it is a real issue that needs to be sorted out."

Mr McConnel said the banning of the Northern Co-operative Meat Company at Casino in New South Wales was also a major concern for Darling Downs producers, as smaller beef producers in the region who sell to China use that meat works.

"The government need to get sorted how real are the technical aspects of this and how much is political tension around the relationship with China," he said.

"It's playing games with the agriculture industry and we need to have these tensions sorted to make sure we have a long term viable trade partner."

In a joint statement Federal Trade Minister Simon Birmingham and Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said they advised of the suspensions late on Monday. 

"We were notified late yesterday that four Australian meat establishments have been suspended by Chinese Authorities over issues related to labelling and health certificate requirements," the statement read.

"We are concerned that the suspensions appear to be based on highly technical issues, which in some cases date back more than a year.

"We've been speaking with industry leaders, colleagues and departments overnight to formulate a comprehensive response. We will work with industry and authorities in both Australia and China to seek to find a solution that allows these businesses to resume their normal operations as soon as possible."

A spokeswoman for JBS Australia said the suspension for shipping product from two of its facilities to China applied for product produced after May 12. 

"We understand there are also two other Australian beef processing facilities that have also been suspended by China," the spokeswoman said.

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"(The Federal Department of Agriculture and Water Resources) has informed that the Chinese suspensions relate to a range of technical issues.

"JBS Australia is firstly working with DAWR to understand the technical issues that China has raised and secondly, based on understanding the issues we will be responding through corrective actions with DAWR."

Trade tensions have been rising with China in recent weeks after Australia started lobbying for an international investigation into the origins of COVID-19.

China has also in recent weeks threatened to place an 80 per cent tariff on Australian barley exports to the country. 

In April, China's ambassador to Australia, Jingye Cheng, questioned whether the Chinese people would want to eat Australian beef given Australia's push for a COVID-19 investigation. 

"The Chinese public is frustrated, dismayed and disappointed with what Australia is doing now," Mr Jingye said at the time. 

"Maybe also the ordinary people will say why should we drink Australian wine? Eat Australian beef?"

It's not the first time China has delisted Beef City as an exporter, with the facility one of six delisted for three months back in 2016.