China lifts ban on five Australian beef exporters

China lifts ban on five Australian beef exporters

China has lifted an import ban from five major Australian beef processing facilities, the Australian government said on Thursday, in the latest sign of improving relations between the two countries.

Beijing has now lifted restrictions from eight slaughterhouses but two are still subject to import bans, the government said.

China imposed the ban between 2020 and 2022, at the same time it blocked imports of commodities including coal, timber and wine from Australia after Canberra called for an independent investigation into the origins of COVID-19.

The ban applies to certain slaughterhouses but does not affect others, meaning Australia can still send beef to China.

“It’s tough for that particular abattoir but we’re still seeing beef flowing,” said Matt Dalgleish, an analyst at agricultural consultancy Episode 3.

He said the removal of the sanctions should still boost Australia’s shipments to China, which have risen to their highest level since 2020 as a shrinking cattle herd in the United States, Australia’s main competitor, reduces US exports.

Lower US supplies may be one of the reasons for China’s actions, Dalgleish said.

China was Australia’s second largest beef export market last year, receiving 240,000 tonnes worth about $1.6 billion, Australian trade data showed.

Beijing has lifted most of the barriers it has imposed on Australian goods since the change of government in Canberra two years ago. The ban on Australian lobster imports remains in place.

“We continue to press China to remove remaining trade barriers, including for Australia’s rock lobster industry,” Australian foreign minister Penny Wong, trade minister Don Farrell and agriculture minister Murray Watt said in a joint statement.

They said China’s trade barriers at their peak affected Australia’s exports worth 20.6 billion Australian dollars ($13.6 billion).

Reasons given by China for suspending Australian beef processors are labeling or contamination issues or cases of COVID-19 among their workers.

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