Trade in beef and veal: Brazil loses patience
Trade in beef and veal

Brazil loses patience

Imago / Joerg Boethling
More than half of Brazil's beef exports were sold to the People's Republic of China until supplies were halted.
More than half of Brazil's beef exports were sold to the People's Republic of China until supplies were halted.

BRASÍLIA | CANBERRA The South American country's government is pushing to reopen China's beef market. Australia is also protesting export restrictions.

Brasília has now stepped up the pressure in talks to reopen the Chinese market for Brazilian beef. According to media reports, Agriculture Minister Tereza Cristina da Costa Días proposed in a letter to the Chinese General Administration of Customs to come in person to Beijing to negotiate the lifting of the supply freeze. Meanwhile, a conversation between the foreign ministers, Carlos Franca and Wang Yi, took place digitally last Thursday on the issue. As Franca shared via Twitter afterwards, there was reportedly a commitment from China to resolve the issue quickly.

Brazil itself had initiated the supply halt on September 4 due to two confirmed cases of atypical bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) under the health protocol agreed with China. According to this protocol, following the occurrence of atypical BSE, the export of Brazilian beef to China is suspended until the Beijing authorities have completed their investigations.

Long test causes concern

In a comparable case in 2019, exports were suspended for a total of 13 days. The fact that the investigations are currently continuing for several weeks longer is causing increasing concern in Brazil. Before the export ban, the People's Republic was the most important importer of beef from the South American country. According to figures from the Association of Brazilian Beef Exporters (ABIEC), of the total 210,000 tonnes of beef shipped abroad in August alone, almost 58 per cent went to China alone. Meanwhile, cases of atypical BSE have recently also been confirmed in Germany and the UK.

Current case in Bavaria

In Germany, a 14-year-old cow from Kraiburg am Inn in Bavaria recently tested positive for BSE. The carcass was subsequently destroyed. However, there were no effects on foreign trade. As far as the German export of beef is concerned, there are no supply relations with China so far. In the British county of Somerset, atypical BSE was diagnosed in a cow that had died in the barn. As a result, the People's Republic banned the import of beef from Great Britain. However, China is of secondary importance for British beef exporters. Their most important business partner is Ireland, according to data from the UK's Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board (AHDB). A total of 60,300 t of British beef was shipped there in 2020; that was a third of total exports.

Criticism from Australia

Meanwhile, Australia's list of companies approved to export beef to China is getting shorter. Last week, Australian Country Choice (ACC) became the ninth meat producer to have its supply licence revoked by the People's Republic after traces of chloramphenicol were found in frozen beef during sampling tests. This is normally used to treat bacterial infections in dogs, but is not prescribed for use in cattle in Australia. ACC pointed out that the offending beef was not processed in its own supply chain, but on behalf of a branded export customer and exported to China under ACC licence.

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud pointed out that some companies had already been blocked from exporting since May 2020. "Despite the information provided to the Chinese authorities as well as our efforts at government, ministry, diplomatic levels, the suspensions remain," the minister lamented. Observers attribute this to the political tensions between the two countries, which have already led to multiple trade restrictions by China. The current import restrictions, which Western media are slamming as a "vendetta" by China against Australia, followed Canberra's call previous year for an investigation into the origin of the coronavirus.

Australia's beef exports to the People's Republic slumped 43.2% year-on-year to 108,780 t in January to September 2021. But there was also less beef to sell to many other destinations as the number of cattle slaughtered this year is expected to fall to its lowest level in 35 years at 6.3 million head due to herd rebuilding, according to industry body Meat & Livestock. Australia's total beef exports fell 132,503 t, or 16.7%, to 660,575 t compared with the first three quarters of 2020.

Source:; AgE


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