Brazil has announced it will temporarily suspend beef exports to China as it deals with a case of mad cow disease — otherwise known as BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy).
- Brazil is the world’s largest exporter of beef and China is its biggest customer
- Brazil will temporarily suspend beef exports to China following a case of mad cow disease
- Australia’s cattle industry is watching closely to see if it opens trade opportunities
In a statement from Brazil’s Minister for Agriculture Carlos Favaro, it was confirmed the case centred around a nine-year-old male animal from a small property in the northern Brazilian state of Pará.
Mr Favaro said the World Organisation for Animal Health had been notified and samples from the animal had been sent to the institution’s reference laboratory in Canada, which would be able to confirm whether the case was atypical.
Atypical BSE generally occurs in older cattle and is considered lower risk and naturally occurring, compared to the classical form of the disease.
“All measures are being adopted immediately at each stage of the investigation and the matter is being treated with total transparency to guarantee Brazilian and global consumers the recognised quality of our meat,” Minister Favaro said.
He said beef exports to China would be temporarily suspended from Thursday and that “dialogue with the authorities is being intensified to demonstrate all the information and the prompt re-establishment of the Brazilian meat trade”.
ABC Rural has been told results from the Canadian laboratory could be known as early as Friday.
China is the largest importer of beef in the world. In 2022, the country bought a record 2.62 million tonnes, with Brazil easily its biggest supplier.
What could this mean for Australia?
BSE has been discovered in Brazil before.
The last case was in 2021, which triggered a suspension of trade to China that lasted about three months.
Global Agritrends market analyst Simon Quilty said the impact of Brazil’s trade suspension would depend on how long it lasted.
“If [the outbreak] is short, sharp and dealt with quickly, then it will have a limited impact on global markets,” he said.
“If China is suddenly not receiving meat out of Brazil, we could see a quick response from China for Australian product, which could in turn, see Japan and Korea looking for Australian product as well.”
Matt Dalgleish from market analysts Episode3.net said the suspension could see China reconsider the export bans on a number of Australian meatworks.
“It might mean the Chinese authorities might need to reassess [their] approach towards Australia and maybe start to progress that thawing of relationships,” Mr Dalgleish said.
Australia exported 150,000 tonnes of beef to mainland China in 2022, down from a record 300,000 tonnes in 2019, according to Meat and Livestock Australia.
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