* Partial bans may indicate limited trade fallout
* Analyst says Brazil beef exports to keep growing
* Three minor importer countries ban Brazil beef
By Reese Ewing and Melissa Akin
SAO PAULO/SKOLKOVO, Russia, Dec 17 Egypt, the
third-largest importer of Brazilian beef, banned purchases from
Parana state where a case of atypical mad cow disease was
confirmed this month, Brazil's agriculture ministry said on
Monday, while Russian authorities mull a similar move.
Yet, both foreign markets are likely to continue to buy
large volumes of beef from other Brazilian states, underscoring
the still-limited impact of the atypical case of bovine
spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), commonly called mad cow
disease, on Brazil's grass-fed beef industry.
Russia, Hong Kong and Egypt, which took more than half of
the 896,000 tonnes of beef that Brazil has exported this year
through September, continue to import its beef. Hong Kong has so
far imposed no restriction on imports of Brazilian beef.
The head of Russia's VPSS animal and food safety agency said
on Monday it was unlikely to ban all Brazilian beef imports over
BSE concerns, but if restrictions were imposed, they would more
likely apply only to Parana state where the sample originated.
Brazil is the world's largest supplier of beef.
"We are analyzing the data now but we do not see enough
grounds to place import restrictions on the whole country,"
Sergei Dankvert told Reuters on the sidelines of a meeting with
Italian diplomats in Skolkovo, Russia on Monday.
Russia has not imported Brazilian beef, chicken or pork from
Parana, Rio Grande do Sul or Mato Grosso states for about a
year, after it closed imports from those states over sanitary
concerns. Russia still imported more than 212,000 tonnes of beef
over the first nine months of 2012 from other states in Brazil.
Brazil's agriculture ministry confirmed Egypt's suspension
of beef purchases in an email to Reuters after the Valor
Economico newspaper reported earlier in the day that Brazil's
embassy in Cairo was verbally notified by Egyptian authorities.
Egypt bought more than 99,000 tonnes of beef through
September from Brazil.
So far only Japan, China and South Africa have halted
imports of all Brazilian beef since Brazil announced on Dec. 7
that a 13-year-old cow that died in 2010 in Parana tested
positive for the protein linked to the development of BSE.
These countries are all minor importers of Brazilian beef.
"It's easy to restrict beef imports at this time of year
when trade flows slow down," said Mauricio Palma Nogueira, the
head of local beef and dairy consultancy Bigma. "Most likely,
Brazil will see continued growth in annual beef exports."
The elderly cow, which was kept for breeding purposes, never
developed BSE and died of other causes. But it tested positive
for the causal agent for BSE, a protein called a prion, which
can arise spontaneously in elderly cattle.
In this condition, which was confirmed by the World Animal
Health Organization (OIE), animals are classified as having
'atypical BSE,' which may or may not go on to cause the BSE
disease, Brazilian agriculture officials said.
A similar case of atypical BSE occurred in the United States
in April. Like the Brazilian cow, that animal never entered the
food chain bu t th e United States managed to avoid any
restrictions on its beef exports.
Brazil's 200-million-head cattle herd is almost entirely
pasture raised until the final few weeks before slaughter, when
the cattle are confined and fattened on feeds.
It is a very different system of beef production than that
which led to the mad-cow disease outbreak in Europe in the 1980s
and 1990s, where animals were fed remains of other animals
including brain and nervous system tissue which sometimes
carried prions that cause the disease.
Nervous system tissue is removed and incinerated from
Brazilian cattle during processing at its meat plants.
"If you look hard enough, you'll find prions in herds
anywhere in the world," said Nogueira. "With the OIE keeping
Brazil at minimal risk and the cow never having manifested the
disease, Brazil will likely follow the course of the United
States with little impact on exports."