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Sunday 25 June 2017

Hogan demands Brazilian firms linked to rotten meat scandal are 'immediately delisted'

Phil Hogan
Phil Hogan

Claire McCormack, Brad Brooks and Dominique Patton

The EU has demanded that all Brazilian meat plants implicated in the rotten meat scandal are "immediately delisted".

Speaking to FarmIreland.ie, Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan: "We have asked Brazil to remove establishments implicated in the scandal immediately from the EU-approved list.”

“In fact, the EU asked Brazil to suspend certification of these establishments pending delisting. Following these contacts, Brazil has suspended all exports from all establishments involved in the scandal".

The EU and China have curtailed meat imports from Brazil after a police anti-corruption probe accused inspectors of taking bribes to allow sales of rotten and salmonella-tainted meats.

The goverment in the world's biggest exporter of beef and poultry criticised the probe as "alarmist".

As the scandal deepened, Brazil's Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi said the government had suspended exports from 21 meat-processing units. But he also criticised the investigation by Brazil's Federal Police into meatpacking companies, calling their findings "alarmist" and saying they used a few isolated incidents to tarnish an entire industry that maintains rigorous standards.

An all-out ban on Brazilian meat exports would be a "disaster," Maggi added. "I pray, I hope, I work so that does not happen," he said, speaking to reporters outside his office in Brasilia. With other import curbs expected to follow, the scandal stemming from a police operation codenamed 'Weak Flesh' could deal a heavy blow to one of the few sectors of Latin America's largest economy that has thrived during a two-year recession.

Police on Friday named BRF and JBS, along with dozens of smaller rivals, in a two-year probe into how meatpackers allegedly paid off inspectors to overlook practices including processing rotten meat, shipping exports with traces of salmonella and simply not carrying out inspections of plants.

JBS, the parent company of Craigavon, Armagh-headquartered Moy Park, is the world's largest meat producer and BRF is the biggest poultry exporter.

The companies have denied any wrongdoing, and authorities have said no cases of death or illness have been linked to the tainted meat investigation.

New allegations of unsavoury business practices in Brazil come as the country is still reeling from a massive corruption scandal centered on state-controlled oil company Petrobras that is widening into other sectors.

Brazil's President Michel Temer has sought to downplay the meatpacking probe, saying it involved only 21 of Brazil's more than 4,800 meat processing units. But Francisco Turra, head of Brazilian beef producers association ABPA, told reporters it had put the entire meat industry in jeopardy and "destroyed" a hard-won image of quality products.

China, which accounted for nearly one-third of the Brazilian meatpacking industry's €12.8bn in exports last year, suspended imports of all meat products from Brazil as a precautionary measure.

The European Union suspended imports from four Brazilian meat-processing facilities, ABPA said, citing the nation's agriculture ministry.

Ricardo Santin, ABPA's vice-president of markets, said two of the suspended plants process poultry, one beef and the other horse meat. One of the poultry plants is operated by BRF, said Santin.

In a statement, BRF said the company has not received any formal notice from Brazilian or foreign authorities related to the suspension of its plants.

South Korea's agriculture ministry said in a statement that it would tighten inspections of imported Brazilian chicken meat and temporarily bar sales of chicken products by BRF. More than 80pc of the 107,400 tonnes of chicken that South Korea imported last year came from Brazil, and BRF supplied almost half of that.

BRF closed down nearly 2.2pc in trading, while JBS ended the day up 0.75pc as investors bet the scandal would have less effect on the world's largest meatpacker.

BRF could prove more vulnerable to the scandal since a larger share of its operations are physically based in Brazil, while JBS derives most of its sales from abroad.

Shares of Minerva and Marfrig Global Foods, which are not involved in the investigations, also fell as traders fretted over further import bans.


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