New Zealand kiwifruit marketer Zespri has temporarily suspended its exports to China while it puts in place new checking protocols to address the finding of a fungus by Chinese quarantine authorities in some shipments.
The move follows “a warning notification” from China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ), issued last Friday. The noticed called for more stringent inspection and quarantine processes on New Zealand kiwifruit entering China and stronger pre-shipping processes to prevent further incidences of the fungus arriving in China.
“We are working with New Zealand kiwifruit suppliers and MPI to develop additional pre-shipping measures in response to AQSIQ’s risk notification issued after the find of the fungus Neofabraea actinidiae through routine testing on four containers of fruit which arrived at Tianjin Port on 8 June,” Zespri said in a statement.
The pre-shipment protocols are set to be implemented after approval from MPI, which Zespri hopes to secure in “the next few days”, paving the way for exports to recommence. “We’re looking at around a week or so until the protocols are in place,” a Zespri spokesperson told Asiafruit.
Zespri has already sold some 11m trays of kiwifruit this year to China, which is on course to overtake Japan as its largest market by volume in 2016. The company had forecast sales of another 8m trays, but around 1m trays are now being reallocated to other markets.
A number of pallets that were not subject to the new protocols have also been put on hold in China this week due to the issue, Zespri added.
“Sales of kiwifruit which have cleared the customs process in China continue as normal and our sales season continues positively in China, on track to exceed last year’s volume,” the company said in its statement. “However there is an increased risk of further finds of Neofabraea actinidiae from fruit still arriving in the market which has not been subject to the new protocols.”
Neofabraea actinidiae is a fungus that causes fruit rot and it has no food safety implications, according to Zespri, which stressed that the fungus only affects a tiny fraction of the 135m trays of fruit it is shipping this season.
'Normal market access issue'
Zespri said all indications suggested that AQSIQ was treating this as a “normal market access issue”.
“There are no records of Neofabraea actinidiae on Chinese kiwifruit and authorities are taking reasonable measures to mitigate any risk this may pose to the Chinese kiwifruit industry,” said Zespri. “We continue to work with Chinese officials and New Zealand government to mitigate any potential risk to China, along with any market access impact to New Zealand.”
Zespri and the New Zealand government have both rejected reports over the past week that politics has any role to play in the increased scrutiny of New Zealand kiwifruit imports to China. The warning notification from AQSIQ follows media reports that the Chinese government could be preparing retaliatory measures against New Zealand’s agricultural exports in response to a potential investigation by local officials into alleged Chinese steel dumping.