PORTLAND, Ore. -- Exporters are having to fumigate for Zika even though there aren’t any mosquitoes carrying the virus in Oregon. China recently required all shipping containers coming from the U.S. to be fumigated for Zika.
“We have no choice,” said Scott Harer, vice president of Albany-based Columbia Seeds. “If we want to ship our seed, we have to comply.”
Columbia Seeds ships about 100 containers to China every year. The extra step of fumigating containers bound for Chinese ports adds cost.
“We are a high volume, low margin industry and any additional expense is surely felt,” said Harer.
The cost to fumigate a container ranges from $75 to $200.
The new rules affect almost all U.S. products being shipped to China, including everything from grass seed to computer parts.
“It doesn’t matter what is put in the container. It’s the container that has to be fumigated no matter where it is located,” said Peter Friedmann, executive director of the Agriculture Transportation Coalition.
The Washington D.C. based trade group is hoping Chinese authorities might reconsider the sweeping policy.
“Our challenge now is to convince the Chinese that this a big country and there’s not a lot of Zika bearing mosquitos in Alaska, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana or Colorado,” said Friedmann.
The Agriculture Transportation Coalition estimates there are more than five million containers going from the U.S. to China every year. The trade group worries that any delays due to fumigation could create a competitive disadvantage for U.S. exporters.
China is Oregon’s largest export market. For now, every container headed to China must be fumigated whether we have Zika or not.
“It could be an over-reaction,” said Harer. “But they think it is a threat. So we have to comply.”