February 13, 2020 / 8:53 PM / 4 days ago

Brazil farm minister urges calm over coronavirus amid commodities export concern

FILE PHOTO: Brazil's Agriculture Minister Tereza Cristina Dias speaks during a news conference at the Itamaraty Palace in Brasilia, Brazil July 3, 2019. REUTERS/Adriano Machado/File Photo

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazilian Agriculture Minister Tereza Cristina Dias said on Thursday that the impact of coronavirus should be viewed with calm and not blown out of proportion, amid rising concern that the disease outbreak in China could hurt demand for commodities.

Dias also said that Brazil will be affected by the recent U.S.-China trade deal, but it “won’t be that catastrophic” as the country is seeking to expand its agriculture exports into new countries and products.

The minister said that Brazil faces an orchestrated campaign to portray its agriculture sector as a villain and called efforts to block the recent trade deal between the European Union and the South American trade bloc Mercosur “protectionism.”

The country must work to reverse the incorrect image that Brazilian agriculture is bad for the environment and somehow of a lower quality than European products, Dias said.

A raft of European agriculture officials have come out against the deal, which still must be ratified, saying that it will flood the EU market with cheap agriculture products and hurt domestic agriculture sectors.

The Chinese province at the center of the coronavirus outbreak reported a record rise in deaths and thousands more infections using a broader definition on Thursday, while Japan became the third place outside mainland China to suffer a fatality.

Reporting by Jake Spring; Editing by Alistair Bell

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