Brazil's Marfrig, Minerva Uruguay plants cleared to sell beef to Japan

FILE PHOTO - A worker cuts up joints of beef at the Marfrig Group slaughterhouse in Promissao, 500 km northwest of Sao Paulo October 7, 2011. REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazilian food processors Marfrig Global Foods SA and Minerva SA said on Friday that all seven of their plants in Uruguay have been authorized to export fresh beef to Japan.

Marfrig and Minerva meat processing units in Uruguay will benefit from an agreement signed in December between the governments of Uruguay and Japan that ended a 19-year hiatus in fresh beef trade between the two nations.

“It is a great opportunity for the company,” Miguel Gularte, chief executive of Marfrig’s South American operations said in a statement.

U.S.-based National Beef Packing Company, which is majority-owned by Marfrig, is the leading exporter of chilled beef from the United States to Japan, Marfrig said in a statement.

With the new export permits, Marfrig said it will be able to cater to the Japanese beef market via its Uruguayan operation, leveraging the knowledge and experience of its commercial teams in Chicago and Tokyo.

Marfrig is a leading beef supplier in Uruguay, with capacity to slaughter 700,000 head of cattle per year, the company said.

Minerva said its three plants there have the capacity to process 3,200 head per day.

Japan is the world’s third largest beef importer, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Reporting by Ana Mano and Marcelo Teixeira; Editing by Bill Berkrot