In a move that could create export delays and add cost, China is now requiring that imported American goods be mosquito-free to prevent spread of the Zika virus, according to a trade advisory issued Wednesday by one of the world's largest shipping lines.
The advisory from the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), cites an announcement from the Chinese General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine:
“With immediate effect, it means that there is a need to provide a certificate of extermination of mosquito. If no certificate is provided, the buyer must fumigate the cargo at arrival at port of destination.”
The requirement comes as American health officials grapple with reports of Zika infections in Florida from mosquitoes.
But it’s unclear how exactly that requirement will be implemented. The Agriculture Transportation Coalition’s program manager Abigail Struxness said the agriculture exporters’ trade group is working to find out who will fumigate, with what, when, who issues the certificate of extermination and whether cargoes from the entire country are subject to the requirement when “only one corner of one state” -- Florida -- has had Zika reports from mosquitoes that are believed to be in the area..
“This will most certainly disrupt the U.S. exporters’ ability to deliver goods affordably and on time to foreign customers in China,” the trade group said in a statement.
Zika is primarily transmitted by Aedes aegypti, also known as the yellow fever mosquito, which thrives in tropical climates. The virus is hard to detect as 80% of people infected show no symptoms. For those who do, the illness is usually mild with symptoms including fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes lasting from several days to a week. However, infection during pregnancy can cause the babies to have abnormally small brains, a birth defect called microcephaly.
China first announced the requirement on March 2, but the U.S. was not listed among the 40 countries and regions in which it initially applied. It’s now been added.
The Agriculture Transportation Coalition lists a number of questions in its statement, including the cost and feasibility of fumigating high-volume cargoes.