China destroys ‘Australian’ lavender bears over bio-security fears

The popular ‘Bobbie’ heatpack bear from Bridestowe Lavender Estate in Tasmania.Eight shipments of “Australian” lavender bears, a sensation in China, have been destroyed by Chinese customs from April to July this year, the country’s official newswire has reported.

The report said the Tianjin Inspection and Quarantine Bureau destroyed the bears sent from Australia as they believed they were infested with insects and could cause fungal infections and rashes.

“Bobbie” lavender bears from the Bridestowe Lavender Estate in Tasmania became a phenomenon in China after a number of the country’s biggest stars, including actress Fan Bingbing, posted photos of themselves with them on social media sites.

This flooded the trading website Taobao – China’s answer to eBay – with hundreds of thousands of fake bears, produced all over Asia.

The move to destroy the shipments comes after Chinese customs banned entry of the bears into China in April, saying they contained untreated seeds and did not pass bio-security standards.

The real bears are stuffed with the estate’s lavender and can also be used as heat packs.

Robert Ravens, owner of the estate, said the destroyed bears were “certainly not” from Bridestowe and it had been at least nine months since he had sent a large batch of his bears to China.

He said the company had never been approached by Chinese customs, but it was not worried as most of its customers were from Australia.

“Our market’s always been Australia,” Mr Ravens said. “Hong Kong also has an insatiable demand, Singapore is strong and so is America.”

He said the estate posted about five bears a week to private customers in China.

Mr Ravens said Bridestowe employed 30 people. It sells out of the bears on a weekly basis as bus-loads of tourists visit the estate.

“We are starting to stock up for the peak season in September and are finding that a bit of a struggle at the moment,” Mr Ravens said.

He said the estate had a protocol to ensure bears were bio-secure and “Bobby” was now produced with tags attached to verify his authenticity.

“If they are fake bears they deserve to be destroyed, if they’re poorly manufactured they deserve to be destroyed and if they are a biosecurity risk, they certainly must be destroyed.” Mr Ravens said.

The farm sold 40,000 bears last year, which the owners say was not enough to keep up with demand.

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