THE Australian Meat Industry Council says it is working with the Commonwealth to overcome a decision by China to ban beef imports from four Australian abattoirs.

The Chinese decision is being seen by some as further punishment on Australia for its public statements regarding a COVID-19 probe, coming just days after it the People’s Republic announced it was considering tariffs on Australian barley.

But AMIC chief executive Patrick Hutchinson said similar issues had occurred before.

“AMIC and its members are well aware that China has strict requirements for technical matters, including labelling, and the Australian meat industry takes these concerns exceptionally seriously,” Mr Hutchinson said.

“While not desirable, we have dealt with issues of this nature before and are working closely with the Commonwealth. This is a trade and market access issue that is being led by the Commonwealth.”

Three of the abattoirs at the centre of the dispute are in Queensland, Kilcoy Pastoral Company, and the JBS-owned Beef City, near Toowoomba and another facility at Dinmore near Ipswich and the NSW’ Northern Cooperative Meat Company at Casino.

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The ABC quoted an analyst as saying this represented 35% of beef exports to China.

Trade minister Simon Birmingham told the ABC the suspensions appeared to be due to “highly technical issues”, some of which dated back more than a year.

“It’s in no way related to the export arrangements for Australian beef or for Australian barley or for anything else,” Senator Birmingham said.

“We certainly don’t see any relationship, and we would expect that no other counterpart country should see a relationship between those factors either.

According to the AMIC, China is Australia’s top market for beef by volume (close to 300,000 tonnes in 2019), accounting for about 29% of Australia’s total beef exports.

“China is a valued export market for Australian beef, and we have created strong commercial relationships, linkages and supply chains to supply Chinese consumers with high quality Australian product,” Mr Hutchinson said.

“Australia remains as one of the world’s most reliable exporters throughout the COVID-19 period, faring exceptionally well due to the preparedness measures implemented by establishments.”

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