The first consequences of the Brazilian meat scandal are starting to show. After the European Union’s suspension of imports from Brazi, it is China’s turn to act. Ships carrying Brazilian meat have been blocked at the Asian country’s ports until further notice. The Chinese government demands explanations and guarantees from the Brazilian government and the country’s meat producers.
It is important to notice that, so far, no country has issued bans on Brazilian meat. Until now, it is actually a preventive suspension. However, Ireland calls for a definitive ban from the EU. Of course, the Irish are themselves meat producers – and would love to replace Brazil as meat exporters.
On Friday, the Federal Police unveiled a corruption scheme within the Ministry of Agriculture. Federal auditors received bribes in exchange for fraudulent sanitary permits. That was used to sell spoiled beef, filled with chemicals to mask the state of the meat.
On Monday night (Brazilian time), Brazil’s Minister of Agriculture Blairo Maggi will hold a video conference with Chinese authorities to overturn the decision. The government claims that the scandal is more a corruption problem, rather than a public health issue.
Meanwhile, South Korea has announced an operation to scrutinize poultry from Brazil. Roughly 80 percent of Korea’s poultry imports come from Brazil.
A “sensational” operation?
The Brazilian government was unable of giving an assertive response to the Operation on Friday. However, over the weekend, Michel Temer’s administration has protested against the Federal Police. Government officials have criticized the “sensationalism” of the police operation, which created, in the government’s words, an overreaction against the Brazilian meat.
The harshest critics came over the fact that many of the Feds’ conclusions were based on tapped phone conversations. For instance, the information that poultry had cardboard fragments was an inference. According to experts from the sector and members of the government, the conversation indicates that cardboard packaging came into a sanitary sealed environment. Bad? Yes, really bad. But not nearly as awful as imagining the cardboard fragments within the meat.
The government strategy is clear: it wants to convince the world that the problem was not systemic. It was a case of a few bad apples that could not tarnish the entire Brazilian meat industry.
Only time will tell if that will work. Nevertheless, one thing is certain: the scandal will have an enormous hit on Brazil’s agribusiness – the cornerstone of our economy.