U.S. companies are concerned that China's efforts to prevent the spread of the Zika virus could create millions in additional — and often necessary — costs for American exports to the world's largest country.
China earlier this month added the U.S. to its list of nations impacted by the mosquito-borne virus, which became linked to birth defects as it spread throughout Latin America. Florida, in particular, was affected by more than 600 cases. Although most stemmed from travel to affected nations, more than 40 cases were transmitted by local mosquitoes.
The Wall Street Journal reports that China's move could require exporters throughout the country to fumigate cargo containers for mosquitoes — including those thousands of miles away from any Zika risk.
“Oregon doesn’t have the Zika problem, but we still have to fumigate and it’s a significant expense,” Columbia Seeds LLC vice president Scott Harer told the paper.
The Agriculture Transportation Coalition said that U.S. exporters ship more than 5 million containers to China per year, led by agricultural products, lumber, paper and chemicals.
At $100 to $200 to fumigate each container, costs could rapidly accumulate.
It's also unclear whether containers will be required to be fumigated in U.S. ports or at their destinations in China. The Journal reported that it could vary by port, and Harer worried that could lead to delays once ships reach China.
But he also told the Journal that fumigating in the U.S. might not satisfy Chinese officials.
"Then costs pile up very quickly,” Harer said.