0335 GMT February 23, 2020
China imported 23,048 tons of shrimp from Saudi Arabia in the first six months of this year, according to Chinese customs, undercurrentnews.com reported.
The temporary ban was announced by China’s General Administration of Customs and applies to Saudi Arabia’s National Aquaculture Group (NAQUA).
NAQUA – Saudi Arabia's largest aquaculture company – was previously the only Saudi firm permitted to export to China.
The temporary ban is a blow to Saudi shrimp farmers.
Although its exports to China have tailed off since January, from 19,033 tons of shrimp to just 306 tons in June, the firm has pinned its future growth on the country; China's preference for head-on, shell-on shrimp allows the firm to employ less labor for processing allowing it to remain competitive.
In the first six months of 2019, Saudi Arabia was China's third-largest shrimp supplier, with imports from the country worth $145 million.
The temporary ban was announced less than two weeks after Chinese customs granted market access to 40 shrimp exporters from Iran.
Iran exports some 30,000 tons of shrimp annually with China as its largest market.
Iranian veterinary authorities said China approved the exporters after they met Chinese laws, regulations and standards.
In the absence of official export approval, Iran's exporters have relied on sending shrimp to China through Vietnam.