Brazil says China bans three meatpacking plants amid COVID-19 pandemic

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - China’s General Administration of Customs has temporarily banned the import of meat from three plants in Brazil amid concern over the novel coronavirus, according to the agriculture ministry on Monday.

The ministry declined to name the companies affected by the decision and said China had not given a formal reason for the suspensions.

Chinese customs authorities have recently asked Brazil for information about some establishments exporting to China following reports in the Brazilian press about cases of COVID-19 among their workers, the agriculture ministry said.

All the information requested has been provided, the statement added.

According to a source familiar with the matter, a plant operated by Marfrig in the town of Várzea Grande was one of three suspended facilities.

According to a database on the ministry’s website, JBS’ chicken plant in Passo Fundo was banned by China on Friday and a plant operated by privately owned Minuano in the town of Lajeado was suspended on Monday

Minuano could not be reached for comment. JBS and Marfrig, which owns National Beef, declined to comment.

The Brazilian agriculture ministry said is trying to determine the reasons for the suspension of the three establishments and at the same time it has started negotiations so that the suspensions can be lifted.

The agriculture ministry also said it had “voluntarily” suspended exports to China from a fourth establishment. China last week identified it as Brazilian beef exporter Agra Agroindustrial De Alimentos SA.

Reporting by Ana Mano; Editing by Cynthia Osterman