Australia, New Zealand say no issues with meat exports to China

SYDNEY/WELLINGTON, Aug 16 (Reuters) - Australia and New Zealand said on Tuesday they were aware of Chinese media reports of a ban on meat imports from both countries by Beijing but said they had not received any official notice and shipments had been clearing as normal.

The Australian Financial Review newspaper said one Chinese media outlet had reported that agricultural imports, particularly meat, from Australia and New Zealand may be suspended due to concerns about foot and mouth disease.

"We are aware of rumours. The Australian Embassy in Beijing has been in contact with China Customs and no formal notification has been issued," a spokesperson at the Australian agricultural department said in an emailed statement.

Steve Ainsworth, Market Access director at the New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries, said exports were continuing as normal.

"We've made enquiries with Chinese authorities, including through our Embassy staff in China. These enquiries confirm that New Zealand products are continuing to be cleared through the border," he said in a statement.

Neither Australia nor New Zealand has reported a case of foot and mouth disease among livestock. But both nations are taking extra biosecurity precautions after the animal virus was found in the popular Indonesian holiday destination of Bali.

Foot and mouth disease is a highly contagious animal disease that affects cattle, sheep, goats and pigs but does not pose a threat to humans. Australian government modelling projects a widespread foot and mouth outbreak in the country could have an estimated direct economic impact of around A$80 billion ($56 billion). ($1 = 1.4251 Australian dollars)
Reporting by Lucy Craymer in Wellington and Renju Jose in Sydney; Editing by Lincoln Feast

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