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EU mission to decide on lifting poultry ban
By Dai Yan (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-10-18 00:29

A visit by European Union officials next week will decide whether a ban on Chinese poultry products should be lifted.

A few days ago the EU formally lifted restrictions on imports of Chinese shrimps, farmed fish, honey, royal jelly, rabbit and other animal products.That move was announced yesterday by Franz Jessen, deputy delegation head of the EU Commission to China and Mongolia.

But its ban on the import of chicken and other poultry products remains in place.

The Commission still has concerns about the safety of these products and the situation with regard to certain animal diseases, said Jessen.

In an attempt to resolve the issue, a four-member inspector mission will visit China next week to assess the situation of China's poultry industry to see if exports to the EU can be resumed, he said.

"The mission will spend two weeks here reviewing the systematic problems and some processing plants," he added.

They will check whether the problems they found last time have been dealt with, said Jessen.

The inspectors will compile a report after their return to Brussels.

 A draft report, expected in about four weeks, will be sent to the relevant Chinese departments for their reaction before it is made public.

Last month the EU announced its decision to extend the suspension of poultry imports from 10 Asian countries until March 31, 2005.

It is the second time the EU has extended poultry import bans as bird flu fears continue to linger over Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Pakistan, China, South Korea and Vietnam.

The EU first imposed a ban on chicken products and pet birds from the aforementioned nations until August 15. This was later extended to December 15.

The resumption of exports of Chinese products of animal origin has been allowed in recognition of China's "significant improvements" in meeting veterinary standards, said Jessen.

In January 2002 the EU imposed the ban citing food safety concerns, in particular the presence of residues of veterinary drugs in food and animal feed from China.

Since then China has mapped out a residue monitoring plan which paved the way for exports of these products to resume, said Jessen.

China has put in place a range of corrective measures which were verified by inspectors from the EU's Food and Veterinary Office in September 2003. The Chinese side submitted an action plan in response to the recommendations made by the inspectors to correct the remaining deficiencies, which is now being implemented.

"Exporters will have their products checked by the Chinese food safety authorities and each consignment will carry an appropriate certificate issued by the Chinese authorities," said Jessen.

The ban involved Chinese products worth US$500 million a year.

But Jessen believes the trade volume in the sector will be worth considerably more after the complete lifting of the ban, given current trade trends between China and the EU.

The EU has replaced Japan to become China's largest trading partner after its latest enlargement into a 25-member bloc in May.

Bilateral trade increased by 36.6 per cent in the first eight months year-on-year to US$111.65 billion.

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