WhatFresh MD: Ireland prioritizing beef exports over crab
Ireland's crab exporters are still not able to export to China, partially because Ireland's trade authorities are prioritizing the reopening of the Chinese market for Irish beef, according to Jack Yuan, managing director of WhatFresh, an importer of fresh food and seafood with offices in Hong Kong and mainland China.
Irish authorities have been slow to issue health certificates for crab exports due to the prioritization of the country’s beef sector, Yuan said. Talks are ongoing between Irish and Chinese authorities on reopening market access for Irish beef, blocked by China after a case of mad cow disease. Yuan said he has had discussions with Irish crab exporters that have led him to believe the Irish government is maintaining a “self-imposed ban on the brown [crab] export, so it would not create any unnecessary problems for the end of the beef ban.”
While Irish authorities have consistently stressed the potential value of the Chinese beef market, their strategy is “shortsighted,” said Yuan, because Chinese consumers have established preferences for American, Brazilian, and Australian beef. By contrast, the Irish seafood industry has established “direct connections with Chinese consumers, but not so beef.”
“I checked with the Chinese customs and import control authorities – they set no specific limitation on Irish brown crab export,” Yuan said. “Rather, it’s the [Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority] itself refusing to issue health certificates for concerns of crabs being returned due to excessive cadmium levels.”
Yuan said that while China sets “unreasonable” constraints on brown crab from the U.K. imports due to the fractious bilateral political relationship, there are no such conditions on shipments from Ireland and Holland, which continues to ship crabs to China.
“The SFPA continues to argue that there are no clear standards. However, Holland continues to ship under the same conditions,” Yuan said. “Why is the SFPA taking such a self-limiting measure while Irish fishing fleets are willing to take the chance of goods being stopped or recalled?”
In a statement sent to SeafoodSource, the SFPA said it “continues to engage with the Chinese authorities regarding the verification of Irish brown crab with Chinese regulatory standards.”
“During 2021, the SFPA certified several consignments of Irish brown crab that complied with Chinese regulatory standards under an export health certification regulatory regime, introduced in December 2019 and designed specifically to verify compliance with Chinese standards, as requested by Chinese import control authorities,” it said. “In 2020, Ireland provided a response to a public consultation conducted by China on the current technical standard for imports of crab to China. Outcomes of this public consultation and any potential changes it may bring to the arrangements for the export health certification of Irish crab to China have not yet been released by Chinese authorities.”
The owner of an Irish crab-fishing company told SeafoodSource on condition of anonymity it hoped to export to China but didn’t think it was legally allowed.
“We'd heard that there was a ban on Irish crab exports,” the owner said.
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