One atypical BSE case threatens Brazilian meat exports to China

Brazil has voluntarily suspended beef exports to China following the discovery of a case of mad cow disease BSE. Brazil is the largest beef exporter in the world, and China is their largest buyer. 

The Brazilian livestock industry is afraid of a long-term stop, and China may look to other suppliers.

It is still unclear whether exports to other countries will also be suspended. Edmund Graham, president of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers' Association (ICSA) expressed his surprise at an agricultural conference that Brazil did not report exports to the European Union (EU).

The Irish livestock industry has urged the European Commission to investigate the situation in Brazil and take all "necessary precautions".

Brazil's agriculture ministry said the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) has been notified and test samples have been sent to a laboratory in Canada after a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy was discovered on a small farm in the Amazon state of Pará. The state government said it is a so-called atypical case that occurs spontaneously in older cows and is less dangerous than the classic type. 

As part of a 2015 bilateral agreement, Brazil is required to automatically suspend beef shipments to China once the disease is detected. In 2021, two cases of mad cow disease forced Brazil to suspend exports to China for about three months. Those cases were also of the atypical kind at the time, but Beijing maintained an embargo until early last year as Brazilian officials tried to convince China that the meat was safe.

China accounted for 55 percent of Brazil's total export volume last year, accounting for 1.24 million tons. Brazil's other major beef export markets are the United States, the European Union, Egypt, Hong Kong, Chile, the Philippines, the United Arab Emirates, Russia, Israel, and Saudi Arabia.