LatinNews Daily - 22 February 2023

BRAZIL: BSE case places beef exports at risk

Laboratory tests ordered by Brazil’s ministry of agriculture and livestock to confirm or deny the presence of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, also known as ‘mad cow disease’) were due to be completed today (22 February).


A case of suspected BSE was reported on a cattle ranch in Pará state, according to local media reports, which also described it as confined to one animal and being ‘atypical’ (lower risk). The ministry of agriculture and livestock said it was conducting two lab tests (one in Brazil and one in Canada) to confirm or deny the presence of BSE.

  • If confirmed, the ministry said, “the appropriate actions will be applied immediately”. Under existing agreements, on confirmation of a BSE case Brazil must introduce an immediate temporary suspension of beef exports to China, its most important market. The Beijing authorities will then decide upon how long the suspension should last. An earlier discovery of two ‘atypical’ BSE cases in 2021 led to a four-month suspension of Brazilian beef exports to China. An even earlier case, in 2019, led to a much briefer 13-day suspension. 
  • China takes nearly 60% of Brazil’s total beef exports by weight. Last year beef sales to China were reported at over 1m tonnes in volume and US$8bn in value. For that reason, any suspension of exports to China would have a very significant negative impact on Brazil’s cattle ranchers and meat-packing plants. The agriculture and livestock minister, Carlos Fávaro, emphasised that health and safety procedures were “rigorously followed”.  
  • There was a major outbreak of BSE in Europe in the 1990s. Since then, prevention measures have been adopted by numerous countries.

Looking Ahead: Some Brazilian media outlets have speculated that the improvement in bilateral Brazil-China relations since Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva took office as president in early January may help limit the duration of the closure of the Chinese market for Brazilian beef. Lula is due to visit China in March: bilateral trade in beef will almost certainly feature high up the agenda for talks when he meets China’s President Xi Jinping.  

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