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Brazil exporters propose tests to show China their meat is safe

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Brazil's meat exporters are proposing to test all meat shipments arriving in China to prove cargoes are safe and avoid more bans from the Asian nation.

[SAO PAULO] Brazil's meat exporters are proposing to test all meat shipments arriving in China to prove cargoes are safe and avoid more bans from the Asian nation.

Export companies would be responsible for carrying out the tests in a proposal made to Brazil's Agriculture Ministry, according to Francisco Turra, head of Brazilian chicken and pork exporter group ABPA, adding the group is waiting for a response from the government.

Over the weekend, China suspended imports from one pork plant owned by JBS SA and another by BRF SA. Last week, exports from two beef plants and one chicken unit were halted to China, the largest consumer of Brazilian meat.

"There are no scientific fundamentals for this kind of suspension," Mr Turra said Monday in a telephone interview.

While China hasn't been clear on the reasons for the ban, Mr Turra said the Chinese government's decision was a bid to ease consumer concerns on "largely publicized" coronavirus outbreaks and plant shutdowns in Brazil. The Brazilian Agriculture Ministry said it will ask China the reasons for the import suspensions and to lift them.

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Coronavirus Cases

All the Brazilian plants temporarily banned by China reported coronavirus cases among workers and some had halted operations, including facilities owned by JBS and BRF. China had also suspended imports from facilities in Europe and Canada that also faced Covid-19 outbreaks.

So far, the export suspensions are seen as having a minor impact on Brazil's exports and China's meat supplies as the South American nation has more than 14 pork and 45 chicken facilities with permits to sell to China.

Major exporters may re-route meat from other allowed plants to comply with export contracts, which have been upheld. JBS, for example, has a total of five pork plants and 12 chicken plants in Brazil with permits to export to China.

"The only impact for Brazil is in terms of reputation" as China's decision may lead other consumers to raise questions on meat safety, according to Mr Turra. China's demand for Brazil's chicken and pork remains strong, he said.

"This is a specific problem with low impact on overall shipments," Thiago de Carvalho, a researcher at Cepea, the Center of Advanced Studies on Applied Economics of University of Sao Paulo. He sees as unlikely a great number of plant suspensions by China as the Asian giant still faces a protein gap left by the African swine fever.

"China needs Brazilian meat," he said in a telephone interview, adding the nation's exports have become cheaper recently in dollar terms compared with rivals due to the Brazilian real slump.

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