January 12, 2004
Brazil Hoping to increase Beef Sales in Asia
A Brazilian delegation will visit Japan, South Korea and Taiwan later this month in a bid to lift barriers to Brazil's beef exports, Agriculture Minister Roberto Rodrigues said Friday.
Brazilian beef exports have grown quickly in the last few years, and it hopes to take advantage of the bans slapped on U.S. beef following the discovery of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad-cow disease, in Washington state.
The mission, led by Macao Tadano, the Ministry sanitary defense secretary, will seek to convince these major beef importers to follow International Epizoological Organization, or OIE, recommendations to allow imports from certain regions of Brazil.
According to the minister, the Asian market bought 450,000 tons per year of U.S. beef, with Japan alone importing 130,000 tons .
Meanwhile, Brazil claims it led the world in beef exports in 2003 with sales of $1.2 billion. Sales are seen rising up to 30% in 2004.
The three Asian countries banned Brazilian fresh beef exports following outbreaks of the highly infectious foot-and-mouth disease, the last of which occurred in 2001.
Currently, they import beef only from countries whose cattle herd is classified as 100% free of foot-and-mouth disease by the OIE.
"This is not the case with Brazil. But 85% of our herd is foot-and-mouth free," said Rodrigues in a press conference.
He said that Brazil would try to persuade those countries to follow OIE recommendations to permit imports from Brazilian regions, which are recognized as free of foot-and-mouth.
He also said that Brazil is in discussions with the U.S. to open that market to fresh Brazilian beef. According to Rodrigues, a U.S. delegation will visit Brazilian beef plants in February. He said negotiations to open the U.S. market could be completed in the first half of 2004.
In order to ensure exports continue, the Agriculture Ministry said it hoped the Finance Ministry would authorize a doubling of the animal-health- inspection budget this year and the immediate hiring of 500 inspectors to improve herd monitoring.