Domestic producers urge U.S. to lift ban on Chinese imports
By CAROL RYAN DUMAS
The National Pork Producers Council is hopeful that congressional intention to lift a ban on poultry imports from China will result in regained markets for U.S. pork in China.
In late September, conferees agreed on language allowing USDA to use appropriated funds in fiscal year 2010 to implement a rule allowing imports of processed poultry or poultry products from China.
While imports have been banned since 2006 because of food-safety issues, USDA has not even been allowed funding to do a risk assessment of Chinese-processed poultry, said Dave Warner, National Pork's director of communications.
National Pork Producers was part of a coalition of agriculture and business organizations that urged Congress to look closely at the issue, and it is pleased conferees moved forward.
"It sends a strong signal to China that the U.S. abides by its trade obligations and will base decisions about imports on sound science," said Don Butler, president of the National Pork Producers Council. "We expect China to do the same."
He said China is an important market for U.S. pork and exports to China are the council's No. 1 trade priority.
As the world's biggest exporter of pork, the U.S. pork industry has a compelling interest in making sure foreign governments base their trade decisions on science. Last year, the industry exported nearly $5 billion of pork, including almost $690 million to China, the second-largest destination.
That's changed drastically this year, adding to the economic crisis pork producers have suffered for two years, losing $22.50 per pig, Warner said. A big factor in lost exports is the ban China placed on U.S. pork after the April 24 finding of the H1N1 virus, which has been commonly referred to as swine flu.
Lost exports of U.S. pork from April to until Sept. 1 totaled $1.1 billion, Warner said. Nearly 30 countries put some restriction on U.S pork following H1N1, even though people can't get the flu by eating or handling pork. China's ban is still in place.
Doing a science-based risk assessment on China's poultry processing and lifting the ban on imports, if appropriate, are important to the U.S. pork industry, he said.
"It's important we do that if we're asking China and other trade partners to base their trading decisions on science," he said.
China has also restricted U.S. pork exports if the swine were raised using ractopamine, a feed additive that helps produce muscle mass, Warner said. The ingredient is FDA-approved with a withdrawal period before pigs go to processing. It has been approved in 24 countries including some Asian nations and is at the final step of inclusion in the U.N.'s internationally recognized standards. Yet China bans pork from swine whose feed contains it.
That decision isn't based on science, and it harms U.S. pork producers, he said.
"We think everyone ought to have their trade decisions, safety of the product, based on science," he said.
Staff writer Carol Ryan Dumas is based in Twin Falls. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
National Pork Producers Council: www.nppc.org