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China suspends meat imports from Brazil

China has suspended all meat imports from Brazil in the wake of a scandal involving Brazil’s meat industry.

Ag economist Alton Kalo with Steiner Consulting Group says that is a significant move.

“Brazil, in the last 12 months or so, has emerged as the top beef supplier into China—and China itself has become one of the largest beef importers in the world,” Kalo says. “So certainly, if it is sustained, it could be significant for the global beef market.”

Because China has not yet resumed purchases of U.S. beef, Kalo says it will likely turn to Argentina, Australia and New Zealand to meet its needs. But he says there could be a domino effect that would force countries like Japan and South Korea to increase purchases of U.S. beef.

“Some of the markets that currently are buying beef from Australia and New Zealand, and whose alternative is U.S. beef, those would be the markets then that would come in to the U.S. and try to source more products here,” he says.

It all depends on how quickly Brazil can convince its customers that its meat processing system is safe, Kalo says.

The EU, South Korea and Chile have also curtailed meat imports from Brazil. Kalo says it his understanding that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has also begun testing all Brazilian products coming into the U.S.

The scandal involves several Brazilian meatpackers, including giants JBS and BRF. Some industry officials are accused of paying off inspectors and politicians to overlook unsanitary practices and tainted products in Brazilian plants.

AUDIO: Alton Kalo

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