Industry sources have told ABC News they have been warned that Australian wine exports will not clear Chinese customs from today due to trade tensions.
Shipments of Australian lobster, sugar, coal, timber, wool, barley and copper ore have also been unofficially suspended from November 6.
The Global Times — a Communist Party newspaper — confirmed what it called the ‘import suspension’.
However, China’s Commerce Ministry has publicly refused to confirm the reports and China Customs say they have not yet received instructions, which has plunged exporters into uncertainty.
The South China Morning Post reports that China may impose an anti-dumping duty of more than 200% on Australian wine exports as soon as next week.
Li Wei, CEO of Australian wine exporter and producer Swan Wine Group said all of his Chinese customers have stopped placing orders.
“We really didn’t think it would get to this stage,” he said. “We are very disappointed. “I feel that the Australia-China relationship has reached a freezing point. We hope the Australian government can come up with some workable strategies to revive it.”
China’s Ministry of Commerce launched an anti-dumping investigation into Australian wines in August to review whether imported Australian wines were being sold below “fair” prices and hurting China’s wine industry.
Ten Australian wine businesses were named in the investigation, but 31 businesses registered to be a part of the investigation.
The companies were asked to fill in sample questionnaires and from that sample, the three companies were selected – Treasury Wine Estates, Casella Family Wines, Australian Swan Limited. Their answers are due on November 13.
Australian Grape and Wine chief executive Tony Battaglene told ABC News the questionanaire was “80 pages long, it’s incredibly intrusive information on your cost of production, your brands, everything about your sales channel, your shareholders, your ownership”.
Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said the Government was continuing work with the industry “to engage fully with Chinese processes”.
“To strongly argue the case that there are no grounds to uphold the claims being made, and therefore there would be no basis for the application of tariffs, retrospective or otherwise,” he said.
Senator Birmingham has not spoken with his Chinese counterpart for months and has called for the Chinese Government to speak directly with the Australian Government.
Last week, Wine Australia reported having the most valuable yearly export trade since 2007, with China spending more on a smaller volume of wine.
China increased its spend by 4% to $1.17 billion and is Australia’s most lucrative market for wine exports. It’s worth almost four times as much to Australian winemakers as the second most valuable market, which is the United States.