China wants a third party to verify that U.S. pork shipped to the country is free of the ractopamine additive, starting on March 1. The news was reported by Reuters from the U.S. Meat Export Federation.

The move by China, the world's biggest producer and consumer of the meat and the third-largest market for U.S. pork, baffled analysts since Beijing has not recently reported finding ractopamine in any pork from the United States. Russia recently banned U.S. beef and pork exports because of ractopamine usage.

Officials from the China's quarantine bureau, which oversees the safety of food imports, declined to make immediate comment, while a spokesman said the country's commerce ministry was unaware of the move.

U.S. pork exports to China and Hong Kong totaled $886 million last year, and there is a possibility that the third-party testing could hurt exports.

Steve Meyer, president of Iowa-based Paragon Economics, said: "My guess is they are trying to protect the domestic industry. They are trying to throw up roadblocks. That is always a possibility when you are dealing with Russia and China."

He said that any move by China to ban pork imports from the United States would benefit exporters such as Canada, Brazil and the European Union.

Joe Schuele, communications director of USMEF, said, "There has been communication from the China regulatory agency with U.S. officials that suggests this will be a March 1 requirement."

"China has a zero-tolerance (ractopamine) requirement for pork. The issue is how do you satisfy the third-party verification requirement when U.S. pork is already ractopamine free," said Schuele.

China in the past barred imports from some U.S. companies that shipped meat with trace amounts of the feed additive.

"We are still seeking specifics in terms of what China will accept in order to satisfy the third-party verification requirement. Those are key details for pork exporters, who want to keep U.S. product moving into this market," he said.

Source: Reuters