WELLINGTON: New Zealand said on Wednesday (Feb 10) that it was urgently seeking clarification from Chinese authorities after being informed that exports from two of its seafood facilities have been suspended.
Exports from a Sanford facility that processes mussels and Sealord Group facility that processes finfish and fishmeal for animal feeds were suspended, New Zealand's Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) said in a statement.
Both facilities were subject to live video audits by Chinese customs in late January but they were only advised of the findings and suspensions on Monday, MPI said.
"This issue does not relate to COVID-19 transmission, but concerns matters raised following an audit of two processing premises," said Julie Collins, Deputy Director-General Policy & Trade at MPI.
New Zealand has taken strong measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and does not have community transmission, Collins said.
"This includes our strong hygiene measures put in place by food manufacturers and exporters, which adapt to each level of risk according to our COVID-19 Alert level."
Collins also noted that WHO’s guidance says it’s highly unlikely that COVID-19 can spread by food or food packaging.
Beijing has used trade sanctions against neighbouring Australia, blocking its barley and wine exports among others following a diplomatic row after Canberra called for an investigation into the origin of the coronavirus, which was first reported in central China.
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Ties with New Zealand have not been affected, and Beijing signed an upgraded free-trade deal with New Zealand last month that gave exports from the Pacific nation greater access to the world's second-largest economy.
China is now New Zealand’s largest trading partner, with annual two-way trade of more than NZ$32 billion (US$21.58 billion).
Around 35 per cent of New Zealand's seafood is exported to China, local media reports said.