China threatens U.S. dairy import ban

In letters to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and USDA secretary Tom Vilsack, the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) urged swift action to continue uninterrupted imports of U.S. dairy products into China and to pursue a bilateral solution that will make sure that the Chinese market remains open for U.S. dairy products. On April 22, the Chinese government informed U.S. government officials that China would block imports of U.S. dairy products beginning May 1 due to alleged “deficient export certification.”

The United States and China have had a USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Sanitary Certificate in place since 2007. China initially had required certain animal health declarations; however, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) said these mandates were unfounded, and the animal health statements were not included in the final negotiated certificate. Now China has retracted the terms of the 2007 agreement and advised the U.S. dairy industry that it will block all U.S. dairy exports within a week.

“This abrupt about-face will have a major economic impact on the U.S. dairy business at a time when it is just beginning to recover from the worldwide economic downturn,” IDFA president and CEO Connie Tipton said.

Tipton emphasized that any growth the dairy industry has enjoyed over the past few years will be swiftly reversed, impeding not only dairy exports but also the overall U.S. policy initiative to increase export growth broadly across all sectors.

“Dairy trade with China has increased exponentially over the past few years, with exports increasing from $61.6 million in 2005 to over $180 million in 2008,” said Tipton. “If U.S. dairy exports are shut out of China, other suppliers can quickly move in and displace U.S. market share, which would result in a loss of business and jobs for American dairy processors and suppliers.”