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May 1, 2012

Brazilian Beef Exporters See Opening After Mad Cow in U.S.

With discovery of Mad Cow disease in a California diary heard, Brazilian beef exporters feel that there may be opening for increased beef exports from Brazil. During previous outbreaks of Mad Cow disease in the U.S. and Canada in the 1980's and 1990's, Brazil's beef exports increased and Brazilian poultry exports increased when there was a concern about bird flu in the 2000's.

In the intervening years, Brazilian meat exporters have invested heavily in improving the quality and safety of Brazilian meat products, which they feel will now benefit the industry. Brazilian exporters could use some good news because beef exports declined 11% in 2011 to 1.09 million tons.

The United States exports a lot of beef to Russia and Europe, which are two regions that generally impose restrictions of Brazilian beef. The president of the Brazilian Meatpacker Association, Pericles Salazar, feels that there now may be an opening for renewed interest in high quality Brazilian beef.

The International Animal Health Organization (OIE) classifies the United States as "controlled risk" when it comes to Mad Cow disease. Brazil is in the same category, but since the disease has never been found in Brazil, Brazilian officials hope they will be elevated to the category of "insignificant risk" as early as this month. If they achieve that higher ranking, buyers may be more inclined to importing more beef products from Brazil.

The concern in Brazil at the moment is the control of foot and mouth disease. The country conducts nationwide vaccination programs twice a year to control the disease generally during the months of May and November. This year the vaccinations are particularly important because of a recent outbreak of the disease just across the border in neighboring Paraguay.

The initial outbreak occurred last fall and Brazilian officials have been working with their Paraguayan counterparts to control the disease and to insure that no infected cattle crosses the border. The land border between the two countries is easily traversed by wondering cattle and the more lax vaccination program in Paraguay is always a concern in the Brazilian states that have a joint border with Paraguay. Several years ago a similar outbreak in Mato Grosso do Sul is believed to have originated with cattle from Paraguay, but it was never proven. The U.S. has not had foot and mouth disease in over 80 years.