China agrees to resume imports of Brazilian beef, authorizes four new plants

BEIJING/SAO PAULO (Reuters) -Efforts by the Brazilian government to lift a month-long ban on beef exports to China paid off on Thursday, as Beijing agreed to resume imports while also approving four new beef-packers based in Brazil, according to authorities in both countries.

FILE PHOTO: A worker spreads salted meat which will be dried and then packed at a plant of JBS S.A, the world's largest beef producer, in Santana de Parnaiba, Brazil December 19, 2017. REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker/File Photo

China’s General Administration of Customs approved the resumption of imports of Brazilian beef and authorized the new plants a day after Brazilian Agriculture Minister Carlos Favaro arrived in Beijing ahead of a visit by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva next week.

Sales of Brazilian beef to China were voluntarily halted by Brazilian authorities on Feb. 23, following the discovery of an atypical case of mad cow disease.

More than a quarter of the business leaders travelling to China with President Lula come from Brazil’s booming meat industry, highlighting the high stakes for a sector reliant on Chinese demand for most of its exports.

Lula will visit China accompanied by a delegation of 240 business representatives, including 90 from the agriculture sector.

Datagro Pecuaria, a consultancy, said on Thursday this is the first time since 2019 that China has issued new export permits for Brazilian beef-packers, referring to the four new licenses granted to JBS SA and another three privately-owned companies.

Earlier in the day, Favaro welcomed the lifting of the month-long ban and said this was a sign that could lead to new export permissions.

Now, a total of 41 Brazilian beef plants are authorized to sell to China.

Beef producers in Brazil were losing up to $25 million per day with the embargo in place. Some 62% of Brazil’s beef exports went to China last year.

In time, Brazil aims to renegotiate a bilateral sanitary protocol under which a single mad cow case triggers an export ban for the whole country.

Shares in Brazilian beefpackers Minerva and JBS rose in morning trade, but later pared gains amid a widespread market rout.

Chinese customers authorities on Thursday also removed a ban on a poultry plant operated by BRF SA enforced in December 2021, according to Datagro Pecuaria.

The agriculture ministry confirmed the ban was lifted in Rio Grande do Sul, without referencing the company.

Reporting by Andrew Hayley and Ningwei Qin; Ana Mano and Nayara Figueiredo in São PauloEditing by Mark Potter, Marguerita Choy and Aurora Ellis