South America Calling

Suspected Brazil BSE Case

It appears that all it took was for me to highlight the promising outlook for Brazilian cattle ranching on Wednesday for problems to emerge.

The Brazil Agriculture Ministry announced Thursday it is investigating a nervous system disease-related death of an animal at a slaughterhouse in Mato Grosso state, which could be a case of atypical bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

A similar scare in December 2012 caused seven countries to ban beef from Brazil, the world's No. 1 exporter.

However, government and industry leaders are downplaying the importance of the suspected atypical case. They point out that the animal was over 10 years old, an age when BSE is known to occur naturally. If the animal was not fed meat and bone meal, the case would not likely change Brazil's 'negligible' BSE risk rating at the World Animal Health Organization.

In 2012, nearly all the countries lifted their embargoes on Brazilian beef when it became clear the BSE case was atypical.

But the case disrupts the industry, especially when it occurs in Mato Grosso, one of Brazil's main beef-exporting regions.

The latest case won't help talks to reopen the Saudi Arabian and Chinese markets to Brazilian beef. It may also hamper the U.S. approval process of fresh beef exports.

Brazil's beef export industry is forecasting record exports of 1.8 million metric tons in 2014. The first quarter was very positive with shipments up 19% on the year at 382,000 metric tons and revenue up 15% at $1.65 billion, driven by strong demand from Iran, according to the Brazilian Beef Exporters Association (ABIEC).

Alastair Stewart can be reached at alastair.stewart@dtn.com

(AG)

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