June 6, 2011


Brazil calls Russian meat ban politically motivated



The decision by Russia, a leading world buyer of meats, to suspend import licenses for several Brazilian beef, poultry, and pork suppliers had no technical basis and appears to be politically motivated, an official at Brazil's agriculture ministry said.


The ministry confirmed reports on Thursday (Jun 2) that Russia would restrict the imports of the three meats from 89 plants in Parana, Mato Grosso, and Rio Grande do Sul - three important producing and exporting states. The ban is due to take effect on June 15.


Industry leaders in Brazil say the ban could affect the major meats producer JBS, Brasil Foods, and Marfrig. Brazil is the world leader in poultry and beef exports, while Russia is the world's largest net importer of beef and a major importer of poultry and pork.


"It's peculiar that the measures were announced without technical basis, repeating arguments that had already been resolved," secretary of food safety at the agriculture ministry, Francisco Jardim, said in a note.


He added that the lack of technical cause reinforced that "there are other motives behind the Russian decision, beyond the alleged technical questions."


The notice of the impending ban comes just 15 days after a Brazilian trade mission to Russia, led by Vice President Michel Temer, that was aimed at resolving on-again-off-again restrictions from Moscow on Brazilian meats trade.


This is not the first time that Russia has suspended imports of Brazilian meats with tenuous justification in the past few years.


Russia would like Brazil, a major world importer of wheat, to buy its wheat. So far, Brazilian flour mills have not imported any large amount of the Russian grain in past years due to sanitary restrictions and import tariffs.


"We were in Russia just 15 days ago. In the last visit, the meetings were more political. Now the agriculture ministry has to go back and deal with technical questions, and send a technical team to clarify the situation," Pedro de Camargo Neto, president of the Pork Exporters Association (Abipecs), said.


Russia was the main destination for Brazilian pork exports in 2010, with 234,000 tonnes or 43% of all shipments of the meat going to the Eurasian country, Abipecs said.


"The notice of embargo is very, very strange and unusual," said Francisco Turra, head of the Poultry Association (Ubabef). "It's so strange that it has a political feel to it."


Analysts at Itau Securities estimated that Brazil's beef exports were likely to be the least affected by the Russian measures, as companies can draw from slaughterhouses that are unaffected by the ban.


The world's biggest beef exporter JBS said the ban would affect three of its plants but that it would continue to ship to Russia from other units that were still clear to ship.


Marfrig also said it would be able to maintain shipments of beef, pork and poultry products to Russia, through different production and export outlets. Russia represented 10% of the company's exports in the first quarter of 2011.


Brasil Foods made no comment on the potential impact of the Russian ban and Minerva said "it had no plants that were on the list put forth by the Russian authorities, and very few operations in the states mentioned by the note."

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