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Chinese poultry meat makes comeback in EU
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Chinese poultry meat will soon appear on European dinner tables under a European Union (EU) decision, effective on Tuesday, to lift a six-year import ban.

The European Commission (EC) has released a list of nine Chinese companies, all in the eastern Shandong Province, that were approved to export heat-treated poultry meat products to the EU.

"The EU reopened its markets to Shandong companies after four years of scrutiny. It is good news for Chinese producers and especially farmers," said an official with the Shandong provincial department of foreign trade.

The official estimated that China's annual exports of heat-treated poultry products to the EU could reach 100,000 tons worth US$1 billion.

The EU examined poultry product producers in Shandong, Shanghai and the northeastern part of China over the past four years. The reopening to Shandong companies is seen as a sign that Chinese companies will have greater market access in the future.

An official with the Shandong bureau of entry-exit inspection and quarantine said authorities had made strenuous efforts to regain access to the EU market.

The authorities collected EU regulations, laws and requirements that involve poultry product imports, translating them into Chinese so as to guide companies to operate accordingly in breeding, slaughter and heat treatment.

The EU carried out inspections in Shandong to check on drug residue, bird flu prevention, sanitation during heat treatment and other issues since 2004, according to the quarantine official.

"Several inspection missions carried out by the Commission's services in China have shown that the competent authorities in China, in particular in the Province of Shandong, are sufficiently well structured to deal with the animal health status of poultry," reads an EC decision dated July 30.

The EU banned imports of Chinese poultry meat following the outbreak of bird flu on the Chinese mainland in 2004.

"Now we can detect a drop of nitrofuran in a full swimming pool," said quality control manager Lu Yongsheng of Xinchang Meat Co., Ltd., one of the nine Shandong companies. Lu's company invested heavily to upgrade detection instruments.

Xinchang puts a code on every package of its products, which contains information on the production date, place of origin and codes of slaughter houses and farms, enabling the company to establish a specific link in case of problems.

Xinchang sends drugs to national labs for chemical examination before they are used and keeps the drug packages for at least three years.

The EU is one of the major markets for poultry meat consumption with an annual import total of 700,000 tons.

Shandong exported US$430 million worth of poultry meat last year, accounting for half of the national figure. Its export of heat treated poultry meat, valued at US$330 million last year, accounts for 60 percent of the nation's exports.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, China registered a deficit of US$7.57 billion in the foreign trade of agricultural products in the first five months of this year, 14.3 times more than a year earlier.

(Xinhua News Agency September 3, 2008)

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