'Huge amounts' of beef going to China despite ban -U.S. official

jueves 19 de marzo de 2015 19:10 GYT

By P.J. Huffstutter and Krista Hughes

CHICAGO and WASHINGTON D.C., March 19 (Reuters) - "Huge amounts" of American beef are bypassing China's import bans, a top U.S. trade official said this week, even as the Chinese government cracks down on agricultural smuggling.

The meat enters through Hong Kong, Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Robert Holleyman said at the National Lieutenant Governors Association conference on Wednesday.

U.S. beef is currently barred from mainland China because of previous cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, also known as mad cow disease. U.S. trade officials have been trying to get China to lift the ban, but with little success.

Holleyman said U.S. officials had told their Chinese counterparts: "You need an agreement like Hong Kong. And that's what we have been negotiating."

How much U.S. beef is being transshipped through Hong Kong into China is not known, trade officials said. But the volume that comes in from the United States alone is more than all the beef consumed in Hong Kong, they said.

The U.S. exported more than 154,500 tonnes of beef and beef products to Hong Kong last year, up nearly 19 percent over the previous year, according to USDA data.

Industry sources estimated last year that hundreds of thousands of tonnes of beef from countries such as Brazil and India are smuggled into China through Hong Kong and Vietnam.

The unofficial trade reflects China's hunger for beef, as the growing middle class demands more high-protein food.   Continuación...