China has suspended imports from yet another Australian meat processing facility, this one hit by a high-profile coronavirus outbreak. China customs said on Friday it would stop beef coming in from the south Australian plant Teys Naracoorte from January 29, but did not give a reason for the decision. It is the tenth Australian abattoir to cease meat exports to China since May 2020, with three of the suspensions, including the latest, apparently related to Covid-19. Customs data showed the authorities in Shanghai prevented about 15,000kg of what was described as defective frozen boneless beef from the Australian firm’s Queensland sister plant, Teys Biloela, entering China in November. Last month there were 140 Covid-19 infections reported at the Naracoorte plant. It closed its doors two weeks ago then resumed work a few days later, saying no one was forced to work with Covid-19 amid media reports alleging management asked employees who tested positive to carry on unless they felt unwell. The latest suspension of meat imports comes amid continued bilateral tension between China and Australia as well as China’s own strict policies to try to deal with the pandemic, including tougher inspection protocols at its borders. China has previously been concerned Covid-19 was being brought into China via food or packaging from overseas. In 2020, the Chinese authorities halted European salmon imports after discovering the coronavirus on chopping boards used for the fish in Beijing. Later that year the virus was also apparently discovered in imported shrimp from Saudi Arabia and Ecuador. Although the World Health Organization has said there is only a low risk of catching Covid-19 from frozen food, Beijing has regularly sounded the alarm after detecting the virus on food imports, leading to disruptive bans. Businesses sending goods to China have had to observe higher levels of inspection as the country endeavoured to maintain its zero-Covid policy. Simon Quilty, an Australian agricultural expert and commodity market analyst, said Teys Naracoorte’s suspension was one of 138 delistings of meat processing plants by China globally. But he said the rate of delisting was slowing. In May 2020 China suspended imports of meat from the Australian firms Kilcoy Pastoral, JBS Beef City, JBS Dinmore and Northern Cooperative Meat Company, citing mislabelling and certification issues. That was soon after tension between the two countries escalated when Canberra pushed for an international investigation into the origins of the coronavirus without consulting Beijing. An investigation by the South China Morning Post showed the four abattoirs did have a history of mislabelling and incorrect certification. In July 2020, two Australian abattoirs – Australian Lamb Company and JBS Brooklyn – voluntarily suspended exports to China after workers contracted the virus. The two plants have yet to resume those exports. Who’s the mystery ‘Mr Ji from China’ in Australian PM’s WeChat riddle? Later that year, China’s customs suspended imports from Queensland abattoirs Meramist and John Dee. The authorities said they found excessive levels of the antibiotic chloramphenicol at John Dee’s plant while there was incorrect labelling on Meramist’s exports. Last year, the Brisbane-based Australian Country Choice was told its sales to China had been suspended after a chemical sometimes used to treat bacterial infections in dogs, but not prescribed for use in Australia’s cattle, was detected in its meat. Quilty said that, after two years of tension, the appointment last week of Xiao Qian, the new Chinese ambassador to Australia, could be a “great opportunity to restore trade relations with China”.