China will reopen its market to American pork exports, almost a year after banning the products over H1N1 fears, U.S. officials announced Thursday.

“This resolution is excellent news for American hog producers,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, in a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) statement.  According to Vilsack, his visit to China with U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk in October “laid the groundwork” for removing the trade barrier.

pigs2-featured.jpgU.S. officials have repeatedly called on China to remove all restrictions on trade in pork products related to the H1N1 virus. The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), World Health Organization (WHO), and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), have all determined there is no risk to humans from consuming properly prepared pork and pork products.

“This agreement is a win for America’s pork producers, whose safe and high-quality exports can now flow freely into China and support agriculture jobs here at home,” Ambassador Kirk said.

“This is great news for U.S. pork producers,” said National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) President Sam Carney, a pork producer from Adair, Iowa. “China is one of our biggest markets, so being able to ship pork there is extremely important to the U.S. pork industry, which has been hurting economically for more than two years now.”
“With the lifting of the H1N1 ban on U.S. pork, we will focus on the remaining impediments to exporting U.S. pork to China,” Carney said.

In addition to praising the Administration’s announcement, NPPC said it would continue to put pressure on both U.S. officials and China to address other food safety and trade barrier issues.

“NPPC is continuing to urge the administration to press China to address a number of other trade-related issues that limit U.S. pork imports,” said the group in a statement Friday.

“Among those issues are China’s ban on U.S. pork produced with ractopamine–an FDA-approved feed additive that improves efficiency in pork production, subsidies China provides its domestic pork producers, and a value-added tax it imposes on imports,” said NPPC.

China has banned the use of ractopamine, or ractopamine hydrochloride, otherwise known as Paylean, since 2002, citing human health concerns. In addition to the U.S., the feed additive has been approved in Canada and Australia, but has been banned in the European Union, and over 100 other countries.  

Ambassador Kirk said he was pleased China’s decision to accept U.S. pork products, adding that the move indicates China “will base their decisions on international science-based guidelines.”

“We look forward to working cooperatively to resolve additional issues, including a resumption of trade in beef,” added Kirk.