China’s Meat Fears Spill Over to Soy With Virus-Free Request

China is asking soybean shippers to provide a document assuring their cargoes are free from the novel coronavirus, mirroring steps taken in the meat market, according to people familiar with the matter.

Soybean shippers in the U.S. and Brazil have been asked to provide the document, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the information is private. The move, which comes just a few days after the request spooked meat markets, threatens to slow global trade with the world’s largest soy importer.

China’s request follows an outbreak that was traced to a chopping board used by a seller of imported salmon. The National Health Commission said there’s no evidence showing the fish is either the origin or intermediate host for the virus. Still, salmon was removed from supermarkets in major Chinese cities.

Soybean futures in Chicago traded little changed, after earlier sinking on reports that a Trump administration official described the U.S.-China trade deal as “over.” Futures quickly pared the declines after Trump aide Peter Navarro said his comments had “had nothing at all to do with the Phase I trade deal.” President Trump also said the deal is “fully intact.”

Over the weekend, China banned poultry imports from a plant owned by Tyson Foods Inc., where hundreds of employees tested positive for Covid-19. Elsewhere, including in the U.K. and Brazil, meat producers have been voluntarily halting shipments to China after finding infections among employees.

Signed Declaration

Chinese buyers asked sellers to state they are “willing to comply with Chinese laws, regulations and standards and the ‘COVID-19 and food safety: guidance for food businesses’ published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Health Organization to ensure that food imported into China is not contaminated with the COVID-19 virus,” according to a sample declaration seen by Bloomberg.

The request was directed at “a wide variety of meats, seafood and other foodstuffs,” the U.S. Meat Export Federation said in a message to members seen by Bloomberg.

USMEF didn’t reply to requests for comment. China’s customs department didn’t respond to a faxed request for comment.

China started testing imported meat for the virus last week. Port authorities in the Asian nation are conducting nucleic acid tests on imported shipments.

“At this time, key unknowns include whether port testing of products from establishments signing the letter will continue, and how China may sanction an establishment if its product or packaging tests positive for COVID-19,” according to the message.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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