China suspended the entry of Brazilian meat in the country until Brazil provides clarification regarding Operation Weak Flesh, launched by the Federal Police on Friday (Mar. 17). China is the first country to make the move official. According to the federal agents, the irregularities involve agribusiness entrepreneurs and agricultural inspectors that facilitated the issuance of sanitary reports on foods not suitable for consumption.
In a note, the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and Supply announced it will provide all clarifications to the Chinese as quickly as possible. “Until it received the information, China will not allow the meat from Brazil to land. Tonight (20), Minister [Blairo Maggi] will hold a video conference with Chinese authorities to provide the clarifications,” the statement says.
According to news agency Xinhua, Brazil's exports to China nearly doubled in the first two months compared to the same period in 2016. In January and February, the exports raised $6.246 billion, mostly through the sale of oil and iron, soy, wood pulp, and beef. The value of Brazil's exports to China leaped 94.3%, driven by an increase in the price of raw materials like oil and iron.
On Monday morning, a ruling from the ministry removed federal superintendents for agriculture, livestock, and supply Gil Bueno de Magalhães in Paraná, and Júlio César Carneiro in Goiás. On Friday, after the launch of the Weak Flesh probe by the Federal Police, the government had announced the ouster of 33 government officials suspected of being involved in the irregularities being investigated.
The investigators believe that the processing plants implicated in the scheme “masked” spoiled meat and repackaged them to sell them. The companies bribed government-appointed inspectors in exchange for allowing the products to be traded without due inspection.
China's was the only suspension confirmed by the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and Supply. However, according to news agency DPA, Chile's Agriculture Minister Carlos Furche announced that the country barred Brazilian meat from entry until further clarifications on the scope of the scheme are provided.
*Extra information from Xinhua and DPA.
Translated by Fabrício Ferreira