New Zealand seeks clarification after China blocks some seafood

WELLINGTON (BLOOMBERG) – New Zealand said it is urgently seeking clarification from Chinese authorities after Beijing suspended imports from two of its seafood factories.

Shipments from a Sanford facility that processes mussels and a Sealord Group fish processing plant have been suspended due to “issues around the interpretation of the World Health Organisation’s Covid guidance, and food safety management,” the Ministry for Primary Industries said on Wednesday (Feb 10).

The move followed live video audits by Chinese Customs at both premises in late January, it said.

“This issue does not relate to Covid-19 transmission,” Julie Collins, deputy director-general policy and trade at the ministry, said in an emailed statement.

“New Zealand has taken strong measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and does not have community transmission. It’s important to note that the WHO’s guidance says it’s highly unlikely that Covid-19 can spread by food or food packaging.”

Beijing has used trade sanctions in its diplomatic spat with Australia, impacting imports of goods from wine to barley after Canberra barred Huawei Technologies from building its 5G mobile network and called for an international inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus. New Zealand has so far managed to keep relations with China cordial and there’s no suggestion that the seafood issue indicates diplomatic tensions.

China, New Zealand’s largest export market, bought more than NZ$600 million (S$576 million) of seafood from it in 2020.

Sanford said it doesn’t anticipate a material impact on operations or sales from the current suspension of exports from its Havelock plant to China.

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