China ups inspections of Canadian pork amid diplomatic spat

Canadian Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau has warned pork producers of increased Chinese inspections of their products

Canadian Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau has warned pork producers of increased Chinese inspections of their products (AFP Photo/NICHOLAS KAMM)

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Ottawa (AFP) - Chinese customs authorities have increased inspections of Canadian pork imports amid a diplomatic crisis between the two countries, Canada's agriculture minister said on Tuesday.

Beijing's move, citing fear of pathogens, comes after it blocked shipments of Canada's most-valuable crop, canola, earlier this year.

"We have been saying for some time that there are heightened customs concerns with China and have recently been made aware of increased inspection on pork products," Canadian Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said in a statement.

Beijing said the increased inspections were needed to deal with an outbreak of African Swine Fever in China, Bibeau said, adding that the virus "has never been found in Canada."

"Canadian farmers make the highest quality products, backed by a robust and world-class inspection system. We stand by our system and our strong reputation as reliable suppliers of quality products worldwide," the minister said.

A Canadian agriculture ministry official was unable to provide details of the increased inspections.

Relations between Ottawa and Beijing have been frosty since the December arrest in Vancouver of a top executive of telecoms giant Huawei on a US extradition request related to alleged Iran sanctions violations.

In a move seen as retaliation, Chinese authorities have detained two Canadian nationals -- a former diplomat and a business consultant -- on suspicion of endangering national security, and sentenced two others to death for drug trafficking.

The canola ban came after Chinese authorities said they had detected harmful organisms in Canadian shipments.

China is the largest market for Canadian canola, and Canada's Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland has condemned the ban, saying there are "no scientific reasons for this action."

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