Argentina’s food quality and safety body have suspended exports to China from eight meatpacking plants after cases of the novel coronavirus were detected among employees.
China, the main destination for Argentina’s beef, has been clamping down on meat imports amid concerns about COVID-19 infections, which is gripping Latin American countries.
Senasa, Argentina’s food quality and safety body, updated the number of plants suspended from shipping to China to eight after Senasa chief Carlos Alberto Paz said earlier in the day it had been six plants that were temporarily blocked from shipping to China.
The export suspensions come after Beijing asked the Argentine government to offer commercial security guarantees amid the pandemic.
As soon as factories are in a position to re-export, we will give them the go-ahead once again, Paz said.
According to Argentina's Agriculture Ministry, 76% of the 328,170 tons of bovine meat shipped from the country between January and May were destined for China. In 2019, Argentina exported nearly 634,000 tons of beef to China.
They [China] asked us what guarantees we could give them so that they would have security with the products they import and we gave them those guarantees, Paz added.
The eight suspensions leave Argentina with 88 meatpacking plants currently authorized to export to China.
Argentina has some 120,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with almost 2,000 deaths. The majority of cases have been in and around the capital, Buenos Aires, where many of the country's meatpacking plants are located.
Argentina's urban centers have been under lockdown against the coronavirus since 20 March. The economy is expected to shrink 12 percent this year, according to private analysts.