Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

China to Lift Restrictions on U.S. Pork-Processing Plants

  • Curbs in place for over a year on exports from some facilities
  • Dispute concerned use of ractopamine, a drug banned in China

China, the world’s biggest consumer of pork, agreed to resume imports of the meat from 14 U.S. plants and warehouses, ending restrictions that had been in place, in some cases for more than year.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said Thursday it reached an accord permitting supplies from six processing factories and eight cold-storage facilities. Facilities owned by JBS SA and Smithfield Foods Inc. were among those reinstated.

“This will allow a greater share of U.S. pork and product exports to China in the coming months,” it said.

China had stopped pork exported from the plants and warehouses after some cases where meat was found to have traces of ractopamine, a drug used to help pigs gain muscle that’s banned in the country. The facilities prevented from exporting included those owned by Tyson Foods Inc., Hormel Foods Corp. and Triumph Foods, according to the Department of Agriculture’s website.

U.S. plants participating in one of USDA’s ractopamine-control programs will be able to restart exports shortly, the agency said in an e-mail.

Good News

Plants representing as much as half of U.S. pork processing capacity were ineligible to ship to China at one point, according to Rabobank. Chinese pork demand has been booming and exporters from the European Union have boosted shipments amid the restrictions on some U.S. suppliers.

According to the USDA, the reinstated facilities include Farmland Foods in Monmouth, Illinois, a unit of Smithfield, the world’s largest pork supplier. Another is Swift Pork Co. in Louisville, Kentucky, which is owned by JBS SA.

“It’s definitely good news,” Cameron Bruett, a JBS spokesman, said by phone Friday.

While total U.S. pork exports to China so far this year have fallen, companies with plants able to sell to the country have benefited. Shipments to China made by Smithfield jumped 45 percent in the first six months. As a U.S. unit of Hong Kong-based WH Group Ltd., Smithfield has distribution channels in China and it also has removed ractopamine from company-owned hogs sent to its plants.

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