US horses allowed back into China, after two-year hiatus

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China's Daniel Zhao and Bolero at the World Cup qualifier at Chaoyang Park in Beijing late last year.
China’s Daniel Zhao and Bolero at the World Cup qualifier at Chaoyang Park in Beijing in 2015.

Horse exports to China from the US are to resume following an agreement between the two countries.

China’s quarantine service halted US imports in 2015, following concerns about equine infectious anemia (EIA), a potentially fatal viral disease of members of the horse family.

Several agencies and organisations worked together to address the EIA concerns, beginning with a visit to China in fall of 2016. Earlier this year, Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles hosted a Chinese delegation in Kentucky for a site visit.

The agreement, signed by United States Ambassador to China Terry Branstad and Chinese Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) Minister Zhi Shuping, clears the way for the importation of all breeds of US horses, including thoroughbreds, to China, where a rapidly expanding racing industry has emerged.

“Today’s announcement is a game-changer for Kentucky’s horse industry,” said Commissioner Quarles, who attended the signing ceremony in China.

“This policy change is the result of work on the part of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and will greatly benefit our economy and workers. Today’s announcement is a victory for everyone in the Bluegrass State and all of Kentucky agriculture, from those who raise horses to the farmers who supply their feed.”

Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, center, stands behind United States Ambassador Terry Branstad and AQSIQ Minister Zhi Shuping after the signing of an accord which allows the resumption of United States equine exports to the People’s Republic of China.
Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, center, stands behind US Ambassador Terry Branstad and AQSIS Minister Zhi Shuping after the signing of an accord which allows the resumption of United States equine exports to the People’s Republic of China.

Kentucky is the leading exporter of live horses in the United States, responsible for $195 million, or 65 percent, of the total US exports of live horses.

Several US organisations were involved in the move to re-establish exports to China, including the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders (KTOB), the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA), Keeneland Association, and US Livestock Genetics Export.

AQHA executive vice-president Craig Huffhines said the association was pleased to be working with the agencies to help demonstrate the proactive and effective way that state and national agencies protect theequine population against EIA outbreaks. “As the world’s largest equine breed association, we are excited to partner with our colleagues in the People’s Republic of China to support the health and vitality of the global equine industry,” Huffhines said.

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