Chinese beekeepers tending hives.

U.S. renews anti-dumping duties on Chinese honey but Canada not a target

The U.S. government has renewed its anti-dumping duties on honey originating from China.

Meanwhile, the Canadian government appears satisfied that it is not being targeted by Chinese producers who want to tranship to Canada and relabel their product as “Canadian” in an effort to escape paying millions of dollars in tariffs.

Last month the U.S. Department of Commerce ratified its decision to continue punitive tariffs on imported Chinese honey, a restriction it first initiated in 2001 as a result of Chinese and Argentinian manufacturers flooding the American market. Tariffs for honey from Argentina have since been lifted. The new tariff for China-wide honey exporters is $2.63 per kilogram and is designed to protect American producers who would be hurt by the imports.

The most recent decision came after the American Honey Producers Association and the Sioux Honey Association renewed their concerns that Chinese producers were deliberately trying to flood the U.S. market with cheap and in some cases adulterated honey. Sioux, also known as Sue Bee, is the world’s largest honey marketing cooperative, bans Chinese honey from its products.

An example of the convoluted efforts made to get Chinese honey into the United States. Source: Down To Earth

Prior to the tariffs being started in 2001 the U.S. saw a sharp rise in the shipment of Chinese honey as well as products marked as “honey” but which are found to be mixed syrups. Before the tariffs, Chinese producers dropped nearly 60 million pounds into the U.S. market annually. By 2010, the tariffs had reduced that import level to 1.75 million pounds annually.

But at the same time, the volume of honey originating from countries around China spiked as Chinese producers began to euphemistically “launder” their product through other means. By 2010 four countries – Malaysia, Indonesia, India and Taiwan – had increased shipments to the U.S. to more than 60 million pounds annually, according to to the U.S. according to testimony by the American Honey Producers Association before the Senate Finance Committee. [See .pdf report here.]

That’s eye-popping when you consider that Malaysia in 2000 had only 25 registered beekeepers and an annual export of 45,000 pounds. Testing quickly showed that most of the new honey originating from new exporting countries was nothing more than Chinese laundered product. According to Food Safety News, as much as a third of all honey consumed in the U.S. is likely to have been smuggled in from China.

Barrels of contaminated honey seized in Seattle by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, 2010

At the same time, the U.S. government has stepped up the seizure of Chinese honey being smuggled into the country. Food Safety News reported last year that federal investigators indicted a number of individuals who tried to  smuggle in more than five million pounds of honey that had been intentionally mislabelled as “rice fructose syrup.” Closer to B.C., a Seattle man was jailed for a year in 2010 for his part in a plot to import contaminated Chinese honey.

China hasn’t officially commented about the renewed anti-dumping tariffs. Instead, Xinhua, the official news agency said in a report carried by the China Daily that “China’s Ministry of Commerce has repeatedly expressed the hope that the US government would commit to anti-protectionism and that the two sides could handle trade frictions in a less confrontational style to create a free, open and fair international trade environment.”

Meanwhile, Canada’s supposedly more stringent testing program is supposedly being credited for why we may not be flooded with Chinese honey that is then repackaged here and sent to the U.S. under a “Product of Canada” label.

This week Paul van Westendorp, B.C.’s provincial chief apiculturalist sent a note to the B.C. Honey Producers Association along with news of the U.S. decision.

“I think this is worth sharing. While the US decision to continue tariffs on imported Chinese honey may not affect BC (or Canada) directly, it offers the potential benefit of honey price stability in North America.

A few years ago, a reporter with the Seattle Times claimed that the US tariffs had caused the Chinese to ship their honey to Canada where it would then be re-labelled and shipped as Canadian honey into the US.

This conspiracy theory was excellent for public consumption but a close assessment by the Canadian Border Services Agency and US Customs, together with CFIA and USDA failed to substantiate this claim.

Transshipment of honeys via different countries is not an uncommon practise, so vigilance remains important.”

The U.S. HPA also believes Canadian testing rules are a predominant reason for why Canada isn’t a favourite target of Chinese honey transhippers. You can read that point in their submission to the Senate committee. [ .pdf report]

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