Ecuador's shrimp industry has come out fighting against suggestions in the Chinese press that the South American nation is the real source of the deadly COVID-19 virus.
Producers took issue with a Global Times report suggesting the virus could have first arrived in China from a country supplying it with frozen foods.
The Global Times report came with the World Health Organization (WHO) yet to report its conclusions from an investigation on the source of the initial outbreak.
"At no time has Ecuador being accused of being the origin of any virus," said Jose Antonio Camposano, president of shrimp producers trade body the National Chamber of Aquaculture, in a statement.
China is by far Ecuador's largest market for frozen shrimp, and there have been several instances where traces of COVID-19 have been found on the outer packaging of Ecuadorian shrimp since the onset of the pandemic, according to Chinese officials.
Ecuador's shrimp producers have always insisted any discoveries of COVID-19 must have come from contact with external sources as they pass through a long chain of custody en route to their final destination.
This led to the signing protocol in August between China and Ecuador under which China automatically halts customs clearance of shrimp of the company in question for seven days following publication of a notice by authorities that traces of COVID-19 on outer packaging has been discovered.
Since the signing of the protocol, Ecuador's shrimp exports to China have recovered strongly, although they are still way off from the 116 million pounds shipped to the Asian powerhouse nation in May.
The Ecuadorian shrimp industry's statement comes at a moment when China is being accused of shifting the narrative and trying to absolve itself as the initial source of the outbreak in a Wuhan seafood market a year ago.