China is back buying Brazilian meat, apparently satisfied the bribes being paid to meat inspectors don’t threaten long term food safety.
“The regularization of the Brazilian meat entrance into China shows the spirit of mutual trust between the two countries and willingness to dialogue in good faith,” Brazil’s Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply said.
China temporarily suspended imports of meat from Brazil on March 20, an action Brazil said amounted only to “preventive measures so that we had the opportunity to offer all the necessary explanations and to guarantee the quality of our sanitary inspection.”
“We are grateful for the gesture of confidence of China, our strategic partner, in the credibility of the Brazilian system,” the statement concluded.
China is Brazil’s largest meat purchaser, accounting for about $1.75 billion of the country’s $13.5 billion in chicken, beef, and pork products exports.
A Federal Police investigation of bribes being paid to meat inspectors, known as Operation Weak Flesh, became public on March 17 as arrests were made and warrants executed in 21 Brazilian meat processing facilities.
Egypt also resumed buying Brazilian beef following a two day suspension. South Korea is also back buying poultry from Brazil’s BRF SA after just a day out of the market.
As soon as the scandal broke, Brazil began working its trading partners with assurances that the Federal Police were targeting people who took bribes, not over a sudden uptick in meat unfit for export.
Those assurances are being played out at the highest levels. Brazil President Michael Temer is expected to call Chinese leader Xi Jinping soon to express his appreciation. Brazil is the source of more than 85 percent of China’s poultry imports. Market sources in the U.S. and the European Union have been limited since 2015 because of avian flu outbreaks.
The Federal Police investigation has not entirely played out, and just how damaging its findings might be won’t be known until it unfolds in the Brazilian judiciary.