China will restart beef imports from Brazil, the world’s biggest exporter, a month after the trade was halted over a case of mad cow disease.
he Asian nation has agreed to resume purchases of Brazilian beef from March 23. The move will likely boost the shares of meatpackers including JBS SA, Marfrig Global Foods and Minerva SA, which have been hit by the suspension.
Brazil is the top beef supplier to China, which is also the main destination for Brazilian beef exports, accounting for roughly 60pc of shipments. The mad cow case in Brazil is ‘atypical’, which generally means the animal contracted the disease spontaneously and presents no threat to the nation’s herds.
The lifting of the trade curb comes ahead of Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s visit to China, scheduled to take place from March 26 to 31.
Beef trade between the two nations was halted on February 22 as part of a sanitary protocol. President Lula is expected to renegotiate that requirement under which a single mad cow case triggers an export ban for the whole country.
The confirmed case of mad cow disease in Brazil discovered in February month was ‘atypical’, the agriculture ministry said at the time, adding it would work to lift beef export suspensions swiftly enacted by several countries in Asia.
In a statement, the agriculture ministry pointed to an analysis conducted by the World Organization for Animal Health (WOAH) that confirmed the unusual case of mad cow disease.
The case of mad cow disease, known scientifically as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), was found in a nine-year old bull from northern Para state.
The discovery was made public on February 20 and triggered an automatic ban on Brazilian beef sales to China.
Three additional Asian markets – Thailand, Iran and Jordan – slapped temporarily bans on beef imported from anywhere in Brazil.
Russian authorities also halted Brazilian beef imports, but only from Para state, according to an earlier statement from the ministry.
There is only one meatpacking plant in Para authorized to sell beef to Russia.
The infected animal has already been destroyed. Officials explained that atypical cases of mad cow disease can occur spontaneously in cattle populations and such infections do not depend on ingestion of feed contaminated by abnormal pathogens known as prions.
But BSE is considered more serious because it involves contamination by so-called prion proteins, and could trigger potentially ruinous trade bans.
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