Costa Rica the 1st in Central America to ship pork to China

Costa Rica is sending its first pigmeat shipments to China. Photo: Shutterstock
Costa Rica is sending its first pigmeat shipments to China. Photo: Shutterstock

Costa Rica is the 1st Central America country that has been allowed to export pig meat to China. Last February, a shipment left Puerto Caldera with a delivery of 24 tonnes of pork products destined for Shenzhen, Guandong province, China.

The 1st shipment includes ribs, bacon, fat, loin and ears. The trade deal places Costa Rica between a group of other American countries that are already shipping pork to China, being Mexico, Chile, Brazil and Argentina. Market approval officially came in December 2019.

The trip will take about 35 days, across the Pacific, but that is just a fraction of time in comparison to the 7 years of negotiations that were necessary in order to get this deal approved. Carlos Alvarado Quesada, Costa Rica’s president, confirmed that the company ’Grupo Zamora’ managed to get its 1st processing unit completely approved by Chinese authorities.

Opening up opportunities for pig farmers

President of the Zamora Group, Mario Garro, said to Forbes: “We are very proud of the quality we produce and we proved that we could do it, despite the challenges. The porcine industry is opening up one step into the international markets with a quality and safety of the first world.”

In local Costa Rican newspapers Alvarado was quoted as calling the 1st shipment to the world’s largest market as ‘a landmark’. He said, “It will allow new opportunities for small and medium pig farmers in Costa Rica. Furthermore, the openness helps to show the high quality of our products.”

Negotiations started in 2013 with a signature of a protocol about veterinary and sanitary practices. Next, in 2016, the Chinese authorities inspected various pig processing units.

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Zamora Group: 24 years active

The Zamora Group, based in Costa Rica’s capital San José, has been working for 24 years in the market. The company has various units:

  • Porcina Americana, responsible for production; and
  • Carnes Zamora, processing the final product;
  • La Ventanita de Jow and JR Ribs – both being sales channels.

Both establishments went through a process to be authorised, registered and included in the corresponding lists of the National Animal Health Service (Senasa) of Costa Rica. Health requirements set out in the protocol signed between Costa Rica and China include:

  • Biosecurity measures;
  • Ensuring that the meat comes from healthy animals, born and raised in Costa Rica; and
  • Certifying that frozen pork is free from contaminants or pathogens.

Other pig farms and plants awaiting authorisation

Currently, there are 9 other pig farms in the process of Senasa authorisation, in addition to 2 slaughter plants and 1 deboning unit being in the certification phase to access China. In total, Costa Rica hopes to send 3,000 tonnes of pigmeat to China. Last year, roughly 15 million kg of Costa Rican beef was shipped to China.

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Daniel Azevedo Freelance journalist Brazil