a group of grey Brahman cattle looking at the camera.

World’s largest beef exporter Brazil suspends supply to China after case of mad cow disease

Brazil has announced it will temporarily suspend beef exports to China as it is dealing with a case of mad cow disease – otherwise known as BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy).

In a statement from Brazil’s Agriculture Minister Carlos Favaro, the case was confirmed to involve a nine-year-old male animal from a smallholding in Pará state, northern Brazil.

Mr Favaro said the World Organization for Animal Health had been informed and samples from the animal had been sent to the institution’s reference laboratory in Canada, which would be able to confirm whether the case was atypical. .

Atypical BSE usually occurs in older cattle and is considered lower risk and naturally occurring, compared to the classic form of the disease.

“All measures are adopted immediately at each stage of the investigation and the case is handled with complete transparency to guarantee Brazilian and global consumers the recognized quality of our meat,” said Minister Favaro.

He said beef exports to China would be temporarily suspended from Thursday and that “dialogue with the authorities is intensifying to demonstrate all the information and the rapid restoration of the Brazilian meat trade”.

Brazil is exporting record quantities of beef to China.(Provided: Global Agritrends)

ABC Rural has been informed that the results from the Canadian lab could be known as early as Friday.

China is the largest beef importer in the world. In 2022, the country bought a record 2.62 million tons, with Brazil being by far its main supplier.

What could this mean for Australia?

BSE has already been discovered in Brazil.

THE the last case was in 2021which triggered a suspension of trade with China that lasted about three months.

Global Agritrends market analyst Simon Quilty said the impact of Brazil’s trade suspension would depend on how long it lasts.

“Whether [the outbreak] is short, sharp and processed quickly, then it will have limited impact on global markets,” he said.

A man is seen spreading salted meat on a rack to dry at a JBS USA
Brazil is the world’s largest exporter of beef. (Reuters: Paulo Whitaker/File Photo)

“If China suddenly no longer receives meat from Brazil, we could see a rapid response from China for Australian products, which in turn could see Japan and Korea seek Australian products as well.”

Matt Dalgleish of market analysts Episode3.net said the suspension could see China reconsider export bans imposed on a number of Australian butcher shops.

“This could mean that the Chinese authorities may need to reassess [their] approach to Australia and maybe start moving that relationship thaw forward,” Mr Dalgleish said.

Australia exported 150,000 tonnes of beef to mainland China in 2022, up from a record 300,000 tonnes in 2019, according to Meat and Livestock Australia.

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