U.S. Farm Exports Challenged by China’s New Zika Regulation
As America deals with reports from Florida of mounting mosquito-borne Zika infections, as of August 3, China has added the U.S. to a list of countries that are required to guarantee that their cargo is mosquito-free.
China initially announced a list of 40 countries on March 2 that would be required to fumigate and guarantee mosquito-free shipments, however, the U.S. was not included at that time.
USA Today reports that a trade advisory issued by the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), one of the largest shipping lines in the world states that China’s General Administration of Quality, Supervision, Inspection, and Quarantine has issued the requirement stating, “With immediate effect, it means that there is a need to provide a certificate of extermination of mosquito. If no certificate is provided, the buyer must fumigate the cargo at arrival at port of destination.”
“It is going to be burdensome. It’s going to add a lot of cost and burden to U.S. exports,” Abigail Struxness, program manager of the Agriculture Transportation Coalition told Capital Press.
At the moment it remains unclear if the regulations will apply to refrigerated cargoes which usually travel at temperatures that would kill the mosquitoes.
Other questions remain, as well. The Agriculture Transportation Coalition is working to answer a myriad of questions according to the coalition’s website, including:
-Can high volume cargo even fumigate at the scale they operate at? -Which fumigants are acceptable? Methyl bromide? Phostoxin? -Which fumigants can work with food-grade products? -Is it better to fumigate in the US or upon arrival in China? -Which certification parties are acceptable? -How much time will it add to the supply chain?
Considering that China unseated Mexico in 2012 as the top importer of U.S. food, according to Mother Jones, and U.S. agricultural exports to China reached a value of $20 billion last year, the answers to these questions are of high economic importance.
Complicating the matter further is the fact that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) considers Zika to be a human health issue and not a phytosanitary concern, and since APHIS does not employ entomologists, it will not be in the position to oversee fumigation methods or issue guarantees, reports Capital Press.
“The people who could help us are saying mosquitoes aren’t under their jurisdiction,” said John Szczepanski, director of the U.S. Forage Export Council.
U.S. exporters state that they are willing to be compliant with the regulation, however execution poses challenges.
“This will most certainly disrupt the U.S. exporters’ ability to deliver goods affordably and on time to foreign customers in China,” said the Agricultural Transportation Coalition.