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The Belgian ambassador and the competent Chinese vice-minister yesterday signed a protocol that will see live horses exported to the People's Republic of China thanks to Flemish minister-president and avid horse lover Kris Peeters’ lobbying during a trade mission to the country. According to Grobbendonk-based horse trader Axel Verlooy, an estimated hundred Belgian horses will be transported to China each year.
Verlooy, who has already sold fifty horses to Chinese buyers, is happy with this development, saying: “Belgium has a surplus of international jumping horses and China has too few. It makes sense that they travel here to buy horses." Until Monday, horse exports abroad had to be arranged via a third country like the Netherlands and Germany, exposing Belgian traders to considerable red tape as the Chinese were dead set against importing horse diseases like African horse sickness. “This is fantastic for us. The Chinese are starting to buy horses as equestrian sport has gained popularity since the Olympic Games in Beijing,” says Verlooy. During the Beijing games China, as hosting country, could participate with its own jumping team for the first time. Verlooy is amused by the way in which they choose their horses, saying: “They literally choose according to colour and opt almost exclusively for dappled-grey and black horses. And no geldings; only stallions and mares. Why? Because they want to to copy our horses just like they copy everything. We have no fear of Chinese copies. America has been trying to breed Belgian horses for twenty-five years and they still haven’t managed.”
According to Francine Vantorre of European Horse Services, a firm from Meetkerke in West Flanders which specializes in the transport of horses abroad, the flight and quarantine from Belgium to China will cost an estimated 7 000 euros per horse. “The Chinese are incredibly strict. A Chinese sanitary delegation arrived in Belgium last year to inspect our quarantine stables. The walls had to be closed up to the ceiling, the horses had to be disinfected every day and they required blood samples. Horses must remain under quarantine for 32 days before they can be transported to China.”
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