March 14, 2019 / 7:24 PM / in 11 days

No U.S.-Brazil beef deal ready for Bolsonaro visit next week: sources

BRASILIA (Reuters) - The United States and Brazil will not be able to reach a deal on allowing fresh Brazilian beef imports in time for President Jair Bolsonaro’s official visit to Washington next week, two people with knowledge of the matter told Reuters on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: An employee works at the assembly line of jerked beef at a plant of JBS S.A, the world's largest beef producer, in Santana de Parnaiba, Brazil December 19, 2017. REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker

The United States barred imports of fresh Brazilian beef roughly two years ago in the wake of a food safety scandal in South America’s biggest economy. Brazil is the world’s largest beef exporter.

Brazil’s agriculture minister, Tereza Cristina Dias, who will travel with Bolsonaro to Washington, told reporters on Tuesday that the issue would be discussed and she was hopeful talks to end the suspension would succeed.

But people close to the matter said there is no chance of a deal resulting from Bolsonaro’s official visit, which includes a conversation with U.S. President Donald Trump in the Oval Office on Tuesday.

“Everything indicates there will not be adequate time for us to be able to normalize Brazilian beef exports to the United States,” one of the sources said, adding that the United States sent additional requests for information last week.

“These are issues involving sanitary screening and regulations. The president could even say, ‘Okay, let’s do it,’ but then the regulator may not necessarily authorize it,’” the other source said.

Neither of the sources ventured an estimate of how long it would take to lift the ban on fresh Brazilian beef shipments.

The United States opened to fresh Brazilian beef in 2016 after years of negotiation, but within months Brazil’s meatpacking industry was rocked by allegations that companies bribed officials to manipulate inspection results.

The United States stepped up its inspections in response, discovering issues that led it to suspend imports of fresh Brazilian beef in June 2017.

Brazilian officials have said that the issue detected by American inspectors related to injections of the vaccine for foot-and-mouth disease causing abcesses in the meat, but that this did not affect the quality of the meat.

Brazil is home to some of the world’s largest meatpackers, including JBS SA, BRF SA and Marfrig Global Foods SA

The United States remains the biggest destination for processed Brazilian beef, importing some 31,400 tonnes last year worth $259 million.

Reporting by Jake Spring and Lisandra Paraguassu; Editing by Brad Haynes, James Dalgleish and Leslie Adler

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