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Ecuador says shrimp exports comply with biosecurity protocol

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Sunday, July 12, 2020, 16:00 (GMT + 9)


China suspended imports from three Ecuadorian companies for allegedly finding traces of coronavirus in containers with shrimp packages.

The Chinese General Administration of Customs reported that frozen shrimp imports from three Ecuadorian companies were suspended. According to the entity's statement, traces of coronaviruses have been found in the packages that stored Ecuadorian shrimp.

But, the Minister of Foreign Trade of Ecuador, Iván Ontaneda stated that "the finding of coronavirus genetic material was not found on the packages, but on the wall of the container."

José Camposano, president of the National Aquaculture Chamber, spoke in the same line, reiterating the safety of the product. "Of 8,000 containers exported to China, only five cases of white spot were found," he gave as an example.

The Chinese authorities indicated that they carried out nucleic acid tests on the packages exported by the companies:

In all cases, there was a positive result in the outer packages, but not in the frozen shrimp. Despite this, the Chinese entity said that "there is a risk that the virus will be transmitted." Therefore, he asked companies to remove the merchandise and destroy it.

The three companies export 27% of all shrimp volume shipped to China.

"In order to eliminate hidden dangers and protect people's health, we announced the suspension of the necessary requirements for the registration of these companies in China, and the acceptance of their products is suspended," the statement said.

The Ecuadorian response

The measure is not about a sanction for the product, nor for the country, Ontaneda said, adding that it is about biosafety protocols. For this reason, working groups have been activated between the Ministry of Production, the Chancellery and the Ministry of Health, with their counterparts in China.

Ontaneda insisted that the country complies with biosafety protocols and that is why "we are one of the few countries in the region whose exports have been sustained."

For his part, the Health Minister, Juan Carlos Zevallos, said that "there is no evidence in the world that the coronavirus can be transmitted by food." Zevallos added that from a health point of view, the virus is unlikely to have survived the trip and the temperatures of the shipment.

Cargo was frozen in April

The Ecuadorian shrimp arrived at the Chinese ports of Dalián (northwest) and Xiamen (east). And according to records from the Asian authority, he was processed and frozen in April. China is the main destination for Ecuadorian shrimp, a product that between January to April 2020 represented exports to the country for USD 1,270 million.

A comparison of the National Aquaculture Chamber (CNA) shows that sales of the product to China increased in April this year, compared to the same period in 2019. While Empacadora Santa Priscila, one of the suspended exporters, told PRIMICIAS that the company has not yet been notified of the suspension.

Between April 2019 and 2020 there was a 93% growth in shrimp exports to China. 

While Empacadora Santa Priscila, one of the suspended exporters, told PRIMICIAS that the company has not yet been notified of the suspension. The company stressed that the virus was not found in the product, but in the packaging. "The test results do not mean that the virus is contagious," says the company.

Camposano acknowledged that concerns are coming to the House from around the world for the safety of Ecuadorian shrimp. It also indicates that the suspension covers a processing plant that sells shrimp exclusively to China. But other "facilities we use to pack the United States and Europe are not sanctioned."

It is not the first time that China suspends the import of this Ecuadorian product. In September 2019, purchases from two companies were halted, for allegedly finding the presence of the white spot and yellow head virus. Furthermore, a Covid-19 regrowth was detected in early June in a wholesale market in Beijing. The virus is known to have been detected on a salmon cutting board.


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