Brazil hopeful China will lift beef ban soon

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Brazil’s Agriculture Minister Carlos Fávaro on Wednesday said “the ball is in China’s court” in regard to a ban on beef exports to the Asian giant. Shipments of bovine meat were halted after a case of mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), was found in the Amazonian state of Pará two weeks ago.

The case was proven “atypical.” According to the authorities, such cases are less dangerous because they “occur spontaneously and sporadically and are not related to the consumption of contaminated food.” Still, the ban on exports to China is automatically enforced according to a provision in a 2015 sanitary agreement between the two countries.

Revenue from Brazilian meat exports (bovine meat, fresh, frozen, or chilled) to China was down 26 percent in February from January — and 35 percent in comparison to February 2022, per official trading data. The drop, however, only partially reflects the Chinese ban. The damage will be felt when March data is consolidated.

Brazil is reportedly planning to request a revision of safety protocols. “There is no need to be so extensive,” Carlos Ernesto Agustin, special advisor to Brazil’s agriculture minister, was quoted as saying by Reuters.

In 2021, the discovery of two atypical BSE cases was followed by a 102-day ban on beef shipments from Brazil to China, but political factors were part of why that ban lasted so long. Between 2019 and 2022, Brazil had its most antagonistic president toward China since the early 1970s in Jair Bolsonaro. 

President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is more friendly toward Beijing — and his March 28 meeting with Xi Jinping sets the stage for a swift resolution.

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