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Argentine grains exporters object to Chinese 'Covid-19 free' guarantee

By Maximilian Heath

BUENOS AIRES, July 21 (Reuters) - Argentine grains exporters told Chinese importers that they were asking for "inappropriate" guarantees that crops being shipped from the South American country were free of the coronavirus, according to a letter sent to importers in late June.

The letter, seen by Reuters on Tuesday, was signed by the CIARA-CEC grains exporters and oilseed crushers chamber.

A source at CIARA-CEC, who asked not to be named, said the chamber was in contact with its counterparts in Brazil, Canada and the United States, which together provide most of the world's soybeans, corn and soymeal livestock feed used to fatten hogs, poultry and cattle throughout Asia.

The other major exporting countries are also against the coronavirus guarantee required by China, the source said.

Chinese importers are requiring certificates from exporters saying crops sent to China are not contaminated by the pandemic wreaking havoc on the world economy. Two additional Argentine export industry sources confirmed that the talks were being held among the Western Hemisphere's top grains exporters.

"China is asking for a "COVID-19-free" certificate for all its imports, which is quite bizarre," said one of the two independent sources. "It's ridiculous for bulk merchandise that will later be processed, and takes more than 15 days of shipping time."

The Canada Grains Council is in talks with similar groups around the world aimed at articulating a response to China, said Cam Dahl, chair of the council.

He declined to identify the other groups, saying that they had not arrived on a common response. The objective is to promote a science-based approach to the grain trade, Dahl said.

The decision of whether to provide guarantees as requested by China is left up to individual export companies, he added.

"This is another potential arbitrary reason to limit trade," Dahl said of China's demand for a guarantee. (Reporting by Maximilian Heath, Additional reporting by Rod Nickel; writing by Hugh Bronstein; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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