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UPDATE 2-Brazil says U.S. will allow fresh Brazilian beef imports

(Adds beef exporter comment, context)

SAO PAULO/BRASILIA, Feb 21 (Reuters) - Brazilian Agriculture Minister Tereza Cristina Dias said on Friday that the United States had reopened its market for Brazilian fresh beef exports, effective immediately.

The United States had halted imports of Brazilian fresh beef in June 2017, alleging that some shipments failed to pass food safety checks.

Brazil is one of the world’s largest beef producers, exporting $7.3 billion in fresh and industrialized beef products last year, according to Brazilian government statistics.

“We were waiting for this news for some time and today we were fortunate to receive it,” Dias said on Twitter.

The measure will take effect immediately. But there are some necessary steps to be completed, including the Brazilian government sending a list of beef packers approved to export to the United States, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

A large Brazilian beef exporter told Reuters that the impact would not be as immediate as the Agriculture Ministry implied.

“There is no communication saying, ‘Look, tomorrow you can produce and export,’” said the exporter, who asked not to be named.

“It is a great step, but they need to be clearer in their communications.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture had no immediate comment.

The USDA had banned Brazilian fresh beef imports after increasing its testing on the beef and ready-to-eat products following a 2017 investigation into corruption that involved Brazil’s health inspectors and meat companies including JBS SA and BRF SA.

The tests raised “recurring concerns about the safety of the products intended for the American market,” the department said at the time. Brazil blamed abscesses caused by foot-and-mouth disease vaccinations given to cows and said it posed no food safety risk.

The United States had only just opened to Brazilian beef imports in 2016 before the market was closed down a few months later, so Brazilian shipments to the country were minimal. (Reporting by Ana Mano and Jake Spring; Additional reporting by Tom Polansek in Chicago; editing by Sandra Maler and Jonathan Oatis)

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