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China's COVID countermeasures heighten concern

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USMEF reports normal restaurant traffic and consumer activity even as Delta strain spreads.

Since a late July outbreak of the COVID-19 Delta variant in Nanjing, the Chinese government has imposed strict countermeasures in affected areas in an effort to contain the virus. Joel Haggard, U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) senior vice president for the Asia Pacific, said that the country’s heightened restrictions have not had a significant impact on red meat demand, with most areas reporting normal restaurant traffic and consumer activity. However, he said the situation has prompted some local authorities to step up cold storage facility inspections to ensure compliance with COVID protocols, raising concerns about shipping delays. 

“China’s now facing what it’s calling its worst outbreak since last year, a spread of the Delta variant that started from airport workers in Nanjing, which is China’s eighth largest metropolitan area,” Haggard relayed, adding that the current wave is “modest” compared to the new infections being reported in the U.S. and most Western countries.

Still, China is seeking to maintain its goal of zero COVID, “tackling the outbreak with great determination,” he explained.

“While the outbreaks have caused sudden outbreaks in travel, hotel bookings, and foodservice in these areas with cases, even a few, we’re hearing of somewhat normal business conditions in almost all other areas.”

USMEF personnel on the ground in Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou is reporting good foodservice business. Additionally, staff conducted U.S. pork and beef training exercises in Shanghai and Guangzhou, which reportedly had good attendance.

Challenges remain, however, as China continues to maintain that imported meat, poultry, and seafood can transmit COVID, Haggard noted. As such, several municipalities have stepped up checking cold storages to make sure wholesalers are following COVID testing disinfection rules.

At the end of last week, USMEF said operations were suspended at a container terminal at China’s Port of Ningbo-Zhoushan after an employee tested positive for COVID-19. While this is not a particularly large point of entry for U.S. red meat products, USMEF said the terminal closure further elevated concerns about container bottlenecks and vessel congestion in China, especially at the Port of Shanghai where some shipments destined for Ningbo were re-routed.

“The situation is still very fluid. But stepping back and looking at this Nanjing Delta outbreak in perspective, at the moment it looks like a speed bump rather than a major obstruction.

 

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