China, others lift ban on meat imports in boost for Brazil

AFP photo

China lifted a ban on imports of meat from Brazil on March 25 after Brazilian authorities clarified details of a police investigation into alleged bribery of health inspectors, in a victory for President Michel Temer's efforts to stem damage from the probe.

The move by China, the biggest national consumer of Brazilian meat, was accompanied on March 25 by the lifting of import bans in Egypt and Chile, bringing hope of an end to a crisis that saw one-fifth wiped off the value of Brazilian pork and poultry exports last week.

A slew of major meat importers issued bans after Brazilian federal police unveiled on March 17 an investigation into alleged payments to government health officials by meat processing companies to forego inspections and ignore abuses, codenamed "Operation Weak Flesh."

Temer's government, alarmed the scandal could damage one of the few sectors that has defied a deep recession in Latin America's largest economy, launched a campaign to convince trade partners that any abuses were limited in scope.

Meat is Brazil's third-largest export, after soy and iron ore. The country sold around $13.5 billion in chicken, beef and pork products last year.

Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi welcomed China's decision and said the government retained a ban on exports from 21 processing plants directly linked to the federal police investigation as it carried out its own inspections.

"Lifting this suspension was the result of a giant effort by Brazil to explain that the investigation targeted the conduct of individuals and not the quality of the meat," Maggi told Reuters.

Officials said that the only one of the 21 plants that exported to China is owned by Seara Alimentos Ltda, a unit of Brazil's JBS SA, the...

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