Brazil Strengthens Rules for Avoiding U.S. Style Disorders | Instant News


(Bloomberg) – Brazil, the biggest beef and chicken exporter, is betting on a new set of safety standards to avoid the kind of mass processing disruption that is causing meat shortages and price spikes in America.

The South American agriculture giant plans to introduce new national guidelines that combine the requirements of local authorities and prosecutors, Agriculture Minister Tereza Cristina Dias said in an interview. Until now, the industry has operated under a protocol established by the federal government.

The Covid-19 outbreak at US abattoirs forced a closing wave last month that caused an abundance of animals and more than doubled the price of pork and beef wholesale. While Brazilian industry has avoided major disruption so far, prosecutors and local authorities have stopped several facilities due to safety concerns. On Monday, Marfrig Global Foods SA said 25 workers at a factory in the state of Mato Grosso tested positive and at least one died.

Keeping the meat packaging industry operational is Dias’s main focus. Rupture of the supply chain will harm local consumers when Brazil becomes a new global viral hotspot. This could also tighten supplies in the global poultry and beef market.

“The worst scenario is lack,” he said. But that is impossible, “unless we lose control of the country.”

Meat packing such as JBS SA, BRF SA and Marfrig distributing face masks to workers, increasing disinfection, installing physical barriers among staff, limiting groups in communal areas and in some cases employing people to fight absence.

Some companies have signed agreements with prosecutors that include commitments to test workers and not pay bonuses aimed at limiting absenteeism. Others, including JBS, have refused to sign the agreement. A single national protocol will establish the same guidelines for all producers.

Another risk is the safety of the inspector. “If there are no inspectors, meat plants must also be closed because inspection is an important part of public health,” the minister said.

The nature of the Brazilian beef industry gives it an advantage over the highly concentrated US industry in terms of minimizing the impact when stoppage occurs. Cattle in Brazil are fattened in the broad pasture, needing more small abattoirs near farms.

Agricultural Credit

The minister’s main concern is making sure the virus does not harm small agricultural producers. He suggested the government should make credit more accessible to small and medium farmers to help them survive the crisis.

Dias, a lawmaker who has been a minister since right-wing president Jair Bolsonaro came to power in early 2019, expects Brazil to benefit from the pandemic in several ways. Agribusiness in the Northern Hemisphere is likely to be more influenced by circulation restrictions because it only has one harvest while Brazil has as many as three, he said.

But Brazil needs to overcome the challenges of reputation and solve the problem of regularizing old land in the Amazon, for example, if it wants to overcome increasing protectionism, especially in Europe, he said.

Bolsonaro has sparked global outrage over tackling deforestation and its government policies that prioritize business rather than the rights of indigenous peoples. In a video released by the Supreme Court Friday, Environment Minister Ricardo Salles urged the government to push for further deregulation while people were plagued by a pandemic. Brazil is also often criticized for its lax regulations on pesticides and agro-chemicals.

The deterioration in the country’s image has prompted several European agribusiness producers and lawmakers to attack a trade agreement signed last year between the European Union and the Mercosur bloc which includes Brazil.

“In addition to the brutal ignorance of Brazilian agribusiness, Europe has antipathy towards Brazil,” Dias said. “The bad will of Europeans is because they are competing against our agribusiness and their desires are declining.”

Dias has been at odds with some of Radsonaro’s more radical right-wing supporters, who accuse him of being too comfortable with China, Brazil’s biggest trading partner.

Local media including UOL speculated he could be forced out after another party member Luiz Henrique Mandetta was ousted as minister of health after criticizing the president’s attitude towards isolation and support for controversial virus treatment.

“There is gossip, but as long as the president wants me in that job, I will remain here. If not, life will continue.”

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