On October 18, China’s General Administration of Customs issued a notice (link in Chinese) that would allow imports of beef from Russia if certain requirements are met. It is an implementation of the Protocol on the Inspection, Quarantine and Veterinary Hygiene Requirements for Beef to be Exported from Russia to China (《中华人民共和国海关总署和俄罗斯联邦兽医和植物卫生监督局关于中国从俄罗斯输入牛肉的检验检疫和兽医卫生要求议定书》)  signed by China and Russia last month. The notice would establish clear rules governing Russian beef exports to China.

The protocol has 17 provisions, which set forth the scope of covered products (frozen or chilled deboned or bone-in bovine skeletal muscles, body fat and tendons derived from bovine under 30 months of age at the time of slaughter). It also sets out the obligations of Russia to provide reports and documents related to disease surveillance, disease prevention and risk mitigation, as well as to meet safety requirements of facilities and meat products.

The protocol also requires Russia to halt exports to China and recall products if there is an outbreak of bovine infectious diseases, including bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), peste des petits ruminants (PPR), contagious bovine pleuropneumonia (CBPP), and various other diseases.

Any disputes will be resolved through negotiations and consultations, according to the protocol.

The October 18 notice is in general a reiteration of the requirements in the protocol. For instance, it states that Russia confirms that it is free from BSE, PPR and CBPP. The live cattle of which meat would be exported to China shall be born, raised, and slaughtered in areas with no Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) or lumpy skin disease (LSD). The farms where cattle stay should have no Q fever, tuberculosis, paratuberculosis, bovine viral diarrhea/Mucosal disease and other diseases over the past 12 months. Each cattle shall come with a unique identification mark for tracing purposes.

The notice also sets out specific requirements for transportation, meat processing, packaging, storage, and other sanitary conditions for beef to be exported to China.

China and Russia had been in talks to set up beef trade for years. In 2019, the two sides reached (link in Chinese) a framework agreement. In 2020, China approved (link in Chinese) two Russian companies to sell beef products to China. Beef supplied from Russia only represents a small portion of the overall beef imports in China so far. Russia reportedly (link in Chinese) exported 15,000 tons of beef to China for the first nine months of 2021, compared to 5,000 tons for the same period last year. To put these figures in perspective, China imported 2,118,300 tons of beef in 2020.