BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission is concerned about a ban imposed on European soft cheese imports in China but has failed so far to receive a response from the authorities to letters complaining about the action, Commission sources said on Monday.
Shanghai, one of the main entry ports for most products, has halted the import of cheeses such as Roquefort, Brie and Camembert in a move set to damage European exporters, diplomatic and industry sources said on Friday.
It is not clear why Shanghai’s inspection and quarantine bureau had done so, though a European diplomat who confirmed the decision said such cheeses were made with cultures not authorized in China.
“These cheeses have been safely imported and consumed in China for decades,” the EU sources said, adding that production techniques used for centuries to make EU cheese did not pose a risk to consumers.
“The Chinese authorities have thus far failed to respond to our letters and honor commitments made to align with the international standards,” they said.
Cheese sales in China were are expected to rise by 26 percent this year to 5.3 billion yuan ($812 million), according to research firm Euromonitor.
More than 90 percent of cheese sold in the market is imported, with most coming from New Zealand and Australia, which supplies the bulk of mozzarella used on pizzas.
However, demand for high-end products such as Brie and Camembert is also growing, with the two cheeses accounting for about 15 percent of sales this year, the Euromonitor data showed.
Reporting By Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Greg Mahlich