Brazilian meatpacking plants are going to start exporting cattle beef to Tunisia at the beginning of February. Brazil has made a sanitary agreement that permits the sale of boneless cattle beef, live cattle, fish, hatching eggs and one-day-old chicks to the country.
"The first shipments of boneless cattle beef may take place in February," stated the executive director of the Brazilian Beef Industry and Exporters Association (Abiec), Antonio Jorge Camardelli.
Brazil does not yet export these products to Tunisia. The agribusiness products that the country sells to Tunisia are sugar, coffee and soy oil, according to figures supplied by the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply.
"Now that the rules have been established, there may be greater development in this area," stated the acting director of the Department of Animal Health (DSA), at the Ministry of Agriculture, Jamil Gomes de Souza.
With the agreement, the sanitary conditions in which the products may be sold were established. Negotiations took place between technicians of the Ministry of Agriculture of both countries between January 16 and 20, when the minister of Foreign Affairs of Tunisia, Abdelwahab Abdallah, travelled to Brazil.
A representative of the private sector in Tunisia, the president of the Association of Beef Importers of Tunisia, Slaheddine Ferchiou, participated in the group. Apart from negotiating with the government, the group visited slaughterhouses and met with representatives of the Abiec.
According to Souza, various contacts were made during last year and, due to the interest of the private sector, the agreement was established.
"This search for closer ties with Tunisia had been occurring for a while and it was good that the government made the agreement now," stated Camardelli, referring to the fact that the agreement was signed at a moment in which Brazil is facing restrictions from some world markets due to cases of foot and mouth disease discovered in the midwestern state of Mato Grosso do Sul last year.
Tunisia is going to buy cattle beef from Brazil, except from the states of Mato Grosso do Sul, Paraná, in the south, and São Paulo, in the southeast. "They are following the European Union," stated Camardelli.
The European Union has closed imports of Brazilian beef from the three states due to foot and mouth disease. The executive director of the Abiec believes that the agreement with the Tunisians may open other markets close to the country, as consumers from those countries may get into contact with Brazilian beef in Tunisia.
"Tunisia is a market of 9.9 million people, and Brazil has potential to supply the market," stated Souza.
The vice-president of the Brazilian Rural Society (SRB), Cesário Ramalho, points out countries like Egypt and Russia, which started growing as consumers of Brazilian cattle beef.
"They were countries that had little importance as buyers but grew and became very important. It is fundamental for Brazil to open new markets for Brazilian cattle beef as we are increasing our production of meats," he said.
Brazil is the largest exporter of cattle beef in the world and ships to 152 countries. That is, 80% of the countries in the world consume the meat produced in Brazil. Last year, sales of meats generated revenues of US$ 3.1 billion to slaughterhouses in the country, presenting growth of 22.4% over the previous year.
In terms of volume, sales also grew 18%, from 2 million tons in 2004 to 2.3 million in 2005. Russia was the main destination for raw cattle beef, with purchases of US$ 525 million, followed by Egypt, with US$ 252 million.
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