November 14, 2018 / 7:25 PM / a month ago

Brazil record soy exports to China could expand further -official

BRASILIA, Nov 14 (Reuters) - Brazil’s record soy exports to China could grow further, an Agriculture Ministry official told Reuters on Wednesday, as the Asian nation’s trade war with the United States boosts its demand for South American beans.

Odilson Ribeiro e Silva, vice minister of international affairs, traveled to China this month and said he hopes the high demand will also open the country up to Brazilian soymeal.

Brazilian exports of the oilseed soared after China slapped a 25 percent tariff on U.S. soy in July in response to Washington’s tariffs on billions of dollars worth of Chinese goods. Brazil has sent roughly 80 percent of its soybean exports to China this year, with grain trader Agribrasil forecasting it hitting a record 83 million tonnes.

“It can go up further, but we hope that it won’t be only beans, but meal as well,” Silva said in an interview.

Brazil submitted a list of soymeal producers to China for export authorization last year. It is unclear when they will respond, he said. The country currently exports little soymeal to China and few plants are licensed, he said.

Chinese approvals of genetically modified crops have slowed recently, he said, and there is no sign it will accelerate.

Some GMO products approved five years ago in Brazil have yet to be approved by China, preventing their widespread use in Brazil and the productivity gains they would bring, Silva said.

The trade mission to China and the United Arab Emirates, which concluded Nov. 8, was met with questions about whether trade could suffer under Brazil’s President-elect Jair Bolsonaro, Silva said.

Bolsonaro has criticized Chinese investment in Brazil and upset many Muslim nations with a suggested move of the country’s Israel embassy to Jerusalem, while his environmental proposals stoked fears it would hurt the perception of Brazilian products.

Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi sought to reassure China and the UAE that farmers were major supporters of Bolsonaro, who has a respect for the law and will not do anything to hurt Brazil’s trade, Silva said.

Bolsonaro could actually expand trade by opening the economy to imports, a necessary step to getting partners to accept more Brazilian exports, Silva said.

Brazil is also aiming to expand meat shipments to China, which is currently its top export destination for beef and chicken. A Chinese delegation is scheduled to arrive in Brazil on Sunday to inspect beef, poultry and donkey processing facilities, with an eye on increasing the number of plants authorized to ship to China, Silva said.

Reporting by Jake Spring Editing by Bill Berkrot

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