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China Expands Suspension of Meat Imports from Brazil

The suspension of meat imports by China so far affects five large Brazilian plants. On Saturday, the Asian country removed pig companies BRF in Lajeado and JBS in Três Passos, both cities in Rio Grande do Sul state, from the list of plants authorized to export.  Less than a week earlier, another three units (two beef and one poultry) had their sales to China halted. China is the largest importer of pork, beef and chicken from Brazil.

Since last week, Chinese authorities have been blocking several meatpackers around the world because of the contamination of Covid-19 among employees. Zero Hora columnist Gisele Loeblein pointed out that the lack of clarity on the reasons for adopting the measure gives rise to various theories. One of them is that the Chinese are using the negative repercussions of Covid-19 cases registered at meatpackers to justify the initiative.

Reuters News reported that China has not given the reason for the suspension. The article added that the Asian country has requested that meat exporters globally certify that their products are free from coronavirus, which BRF, JBS and other food processors in Brazil have already done.

Valor Econômico newspaper wrote that although there is no evidence that food can transmit the virus, China has increased control over imports in order to avoid a second wave of contamination of the disease.

The suspension of Chinese export authorization for Brazilian meat plants should affect sales of animal protein in the short term, according to an interview by Rabobank analyst in Brazil Wagner Yanaguizawa in Globo Rural magazine:

‘The positive point is that this is not an exclusive problem in Brazil. Other important regions are being impacted, such as Germany, USA, Canada and Argentina.’

With respect to Brazil, Yanaguizawa projects a lesser impact due to the good performance of exports and the high competitiveness of meat after the devaluation of the real against the dollar.

Canal Rural columnist Alexandre Garcia pointed that Chinese government’s action may be contradictory:

‘It is ironic that the Chinese are concerned about the return of a virus that came from China itself. They know that we have a very strict protocol throughout the meat production chain.’

Meanwhile, Globo Rural magazine reported that the Ministry of Public Worker has 162 investigations underway against meat industries across the country, due to the lack of control of Covid-19 among workers. Of the total active investigations, 47 are in Rio Grande do Sul, 9 in Santa Catarina and another 15 in Paraná state.

In the last week, Paraná state published a document that determines measures to prevent and control the transmission of virus that cause Covid-19 at meatpackers, according to a Canal Rural article.  Among the measures, there is the decision that industries maintain a contingency plan for the disease and an indication of a minimum distance of two meters among employees.

Joana Colussi is a journalist and visiting researcher at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). Previously, she has reported on various agribusiness and economics topics for prominent Brazilian media publications, such as Grupo Globo affiliates. Joana holds a Master’s degree in Agribusiness, and is a Ph.D. candidate in Management at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS-Brazil).

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