Australian timber and barley are the latest exports to be hit with customs restrictions in China, as the government continues to try to save millions of dollars worth of live rock lobsters held up at a Shanghai airport.
“The Australian government is aware that China has suspended exports of Australian logs from Queensland and exports of barley from an additional barley exporter,” Agriculture Minister David Littleproud confirmed on Tuesday.
China’s customs agency claims a bark beetle was found in timber imports from Queensland and weed seeds had contaminated a barley shipment.
“Australia has strong regulatory controls that underpin the integrity and biosecurity of all products exported,” Littleproud said.
“We will work with the Chinese authorities to investigate and resolve these issues.”
The news comes off the back of a growing list of trade disruptions amid escalating tensions between Beijing and Canberra.
On Monday, Australia’s Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said the government was investigating “exactly what the facts are” after tonnes of live Australian lobster faced Chinese customs clearance problems.
China alleges the lobsters may be contaminated with trace elements of metals.
In 2018-19, China received around 94 per cent of Australia’s 752 million Australian dollars (526 million dollars) worth of rock lobster exports.
Exporters fear that if the delay is prolonged the product will spoil before reaching restaurants and shops.
Relations between China and Australia have become increasingly strained this year, after Canberra supported US calls for an investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.
In recent months, China has placed trade restrictions on Australian wine, beef and barley. There have been also been concerns raised of changes to coal and cotton export conditions.
Littleproud on Monday said Australia was being singled out, warning that discriminating against Australian products would be in breach of China-Australia Free Trade Agreement commitments.
“We’re a fair country. We play by WTO rules and we expect countries we trade with to do that,” Littleproud said.
“If they don’t, we’ll have to make consideration with industry around what our next action is around the independent umpire, being the WTO [World Trade Organization], and what we would do next,” he said.
China is Australia’s largest trading partner. In 2018-2019, China bought around 26 per cent of exports, valued at 235 billion Australian dollars.