U.S. Mad Cow Gives Brazil a Boost

     U.S. Mad Cow Gives Brazil 
a Boost

    Despite being the
    world’s largest exporter in terms of volume,
    Brazil lags far behind the U.S. when it comes to revenue. 
    Cheap corned beef is the bulk of Brazil’s meat shipments, and
    that is not prone to change until 2005, when experts forecast
    Brazil will be entirely free of foot and mouth disease.
    by: Luis
    Waldmann

     

    Brazil, home to the world’s
    largest cattle herd, expects a boost in foreign meat sales as more than 30
    countries have closed their markets to U.S. beef on concern it may carry mad
    cow disease.

    "This is a dramatic
    situation for the United States and it is a shame that this has happened,"
    Roberto Rodrigues, Brazil’s minister of agriculture, was quoted as saying.
    "But this can open up markets for Brazil".

    Brazilian meat exports
    have gone up 74 percent since 2000, and could be slated to replace some of
    the roughly US$ 3 billion of annual U.S. beef exports. Local producers, who
    sold nearly US$ 1.5 billion in foreign markets in 2003, are preparing for
    a rise in orders.

    The outbreak of mad cow
    disease in Europe in 2001 prompted many countries to drop their European suppliers
    in favor of Brazilian substitutes. As a direct result, Middle Eastern countries
    raised imports of Brazilian meat threefold to about US$ 210 million in
    2003, or 15 percent of the country’s total overseas beef sales.

    "Brazil is still
    part of a thinning group of countries that have never had a single case of
    mad cow disease," said Miguel Cavalcanti of BeefPoint, a local consultancy
    firm specializing in the meat industry. "Our efforts will be aimed at
    keeping it that way,"

    Japan, which
    coupled with South Korea has bought about US$ 2 billion of U.S.
    meat last year, has long barred Brazilian meat on grounds that
    foot and mouth disease is still present in some of Brazil’s
    sprawling cattle ranges. Unlike the mad cow disease, foot and
    mouth does not affect human beings, but is highly contagious
    and can be fatal to cloven-hoofed animals.

    Likewise, the U.S. has
    its own foot and mouth ban which affects Brazilian fresh meat, although lower-priced
    corned beef has been able to fetch US$ 133 million in sales to that market
    in 2003. Local producers expect such ban to be lifted in late 2004,
    shortly before the complete eradication of foot and mouth disease.

    Despite being the world’s
    largest exporter in terms of volume, Brazil lags far behind when it comes
    to revenue. Cheap corned beef is the bulk of Brazil’s meat shipments,
    and that is not prone to change until 2005, when experts forecast
    Brazil will be entirely free of foot and mouth.

    While the
    United States and Canada dispute where the ill-fated mad cow
    was bred, the Brazilian government has just pledged to give
    away US$ 500 thousand in anti foot and mouth vaccines to Paraguay
    and Bolivia, in an attempt to prevent stray animals from infecting
    cattle grazing along Brazil’s vast borders.

    In early
    2001, Brazil’s delay in submitting mad cow prevention reports
    to the European Union led Canada to spark a NAFTA-wide cattle
    block on Brazil. The decision came just one day after Brazil’s
    victory in a hefty Canada-Brazil aircraft subsidies dispute.

    "It was probably
    motivated by political issues concerning Bombardier and Embraer," said
    Cavalcanti. "It was short-lived though. Soon a delegation comprised of
    Canadian, American and Mexican experts lifted the ban after thoroughly assessing
    our cattle."

    Mad cow
    disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, can be lethal
    to humans and has claimed the lives of more than 120 people,
    the majority of those in the United Kingdom. Most of the Brazilian
    herds are grazed on grass, averting contamination by their contact
    with tainted animal feed, the only known form of mad cow disease
    transmission.

     
    Luis
    Waldmann is a freelance writer based in Rio de Janeiro and can
    be reached at editor@bnbureau.com.br

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