STEVEN CIOBO: I just wanted to update people on where things sit with respect to the beef export issue from Australia into China. Obviously we were notified in the last 24 – 48 hours that a Chinese quarantine agency had some issues with respect to six meat processing facilities in Australia. These facilities are responsible for a significant proportion of Australia's beef exports to China. As a consequence we could potentially see tens of millions and potentially more than $100 million worth of our meat export trade into China adversely affected.
We have been very mobilised and I've been very focused on trying to resolve this issue as quickly as possible. I am very grateful we've had very constructive discussions with Chinese authorities in the last 24 hours and I am very pleased that China has indicated that for beef that is already on the water, that is, beef that has already been dispatched prior to the 24th July, that beef will be accepted by China. That is a terrific outcome, of course, for the stakeholders, for those meat-processing facilities. I can't reinforce enough the seriousness of which I and the Australian Government take this matter.
Of course there is six processing facilities that are affected, the owners of those, there is also the employees that work in those facilities plus of course the many farmers that supply beef to these facilities. We have been front and centre when it comes to discussions we are having with China and take China's concerns seriously and we want to make sure we address their concerns and get this trade back on track as soon as possible.
JOURNALIST: What exactly is the problem with the beef? What is their beef with the beef?
STEVEN CIOBO: China's concern is that they have raised with Australia some labelling inconsistencies, some of the labels on the outside of the boxes of beef, for example, are different to some of the labels according to the concerns they have raised with us some of the labels on the insides of the boxes. These are largely technical issues; they are not health and safety related, so as a consequence we have seen these six facilities have had a stop put on them by Chinese authorities.
JOURNALIST: Have the Chinese authorities made any representations here?
STEVEN CIOBO: The Australian Department of Agriculture is undertaking a snap audit of the six affected facilities. We want to make sure that we are able to provide the assurances that the Chinese agency and the Chinese Government are looking for. In order to do that this snap audit will take place. I have certainly had very constructive discussions with nearly all of the CEOs of the affected facilities. I want to make sure that we keep them informed, their employees informed and farmers informed about where things sit with respect to this very important export trade for Australia.
STEVEN CIOBO: We are seeing a very high level of constructive level engagement between Australian authorities and Chinese authorities. Our Embassy in Beijing has been talking on a regular basis with Chinese authorities. Of course I've also had the opportunity to be briefed by our acting ambassador in Beijing, making sure that we are very focused on trying to resolve this issue as quickly as we can.
STEVEN CIOBO: Well it is difficult to predict what the actual value of the trade that's going to be affected is. It will depend on how long this issue goes on for. I am very focused on getting as quick a resolution as possible. Certainly our beef exports to China are worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year. I want to make sure that we can deal with this in a way that's respectful of Chinese concerns and hopefully overcomes this as quickly as possible and the way to do that is through constructive engagement with the Chinese Government.