Only two companies - which are part of the same group and hold some 18% of the pork meat production in Belgium - are currently allowed to export pork meat to China, a Belgian Meat Federation (FEBEV) spokesperson told GlobalMeatNews. They were authorised to do so after an inspection by Chinese authorities in Belgium, following an agreement between Belgium and China sealed back in 2009.
The memorandum signed on Tuesday (9 June) by the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine of the People’s Republic of China aims to increase this number.
Four more companies are expected to be allowed to export pork meat to China in the aftermath of this new memorandum. "This will start applying as soon as the Chinese authorities have received all the guarantees needed from our authorities," FEBEV said. The first pork meat shipment from these as yet unnamed four companies would be expected to leave Belgium for China in about three months, according to the FEBEV spokesperson.
Chinese inspectors will visit Belgium again this year to check the country’s pork meat production system. The Belgians hope this will result in an additional increase in the number of companies and pork meat products that China will be willing to import. It is not yet known how many Belgian pork meat producers will ultimately be able to benefit from the opening of the Chinese market, as it is up to Chinese authorities to decide, after the inspection, FEBEV explained.
Meanwhile, the Belgian agriculture ministry has proposed that Chinese food regulators are supplied with pledges from independent auditors that Chinese food safety requirements and guarantees are respected by the companies exporting pork meat to China.
"Being present in a market such as China’s is a real advancement", Borsus said upon signing of the memorandum.
The deal is timely. Belgian pork meat exports have taken a serious hit from the Russian embargo imposed in August last year as part of the diplomatic row between Russia and the European Union (EU) over the conflict in Ukraine.
Looking ahead, the Belgian agriculture minister has said he hopes that a similar deal could be reached between his country and China on beef meat, for which talks are already taking place.