In a statement made Monday (Mar. 20), President Michel Temer said the issues uncovered at meat processing plants by the Federal Police as part of Operation Weak Flesh affect only a small part of the sector. “Agribusiness is of the utmost importance to us and must not lose its value on account of a small core, something that will shrink in size: it can be investigated, monitored, and punished whenever necessary. But we must not compromise the whole system we've been putting together over the years. We've been exporting to over 150 countries,” the president told an audience of investors at the headquarters of the American Chamber of Commerce, in São Paulo.
The crackdown was launched last Friday (17) and targeted some of the country's biggest food giants, like JBS, BRF, and Peccin, accused of committing a number of frauds to conceal the use of expired or low-quality material in food production.
Temer noted that the number of public officials implicated (33) is small compared to all 11 thousand officials in the Ministry of Agriculture. “Our sanitary assessment systems here in Brazil are extremely rigorous,” he stressed. The officials are being accused of pocketing bribes in exchange for releasing products that did not comply with the regulations. He went on to say that the number of plants under suspicion (21) is small, taking into consideration the whole of the sector, which includes over 4.8 thousand establishments.
The president further mentioned the several meetings he held in recent days both to become acquainted with the topic and to reassure the countries buying Brazilian foods. “I've been to a number of meetings in Brasília, first with the ministers from the areas involved in the issue, then with the associations of meat producers of all kinds, as well as the ambassadors from the countries importing Brazilian meat. We ended up in a fraternal atmosphere last night, eating barbecue with all the representatives of the countries in attendance,” he said.
Conversation with Trump
Temer made comments about a phone call from US President Donald Trump received last Saturday—the second call between the two. “We both agree to advance an investment agenda. His Excellence went as far as to say, 'We need to call a meeting here in the US or in Brazil, with Brazilian or American investors,'” he said, describing the conversation.
To improve bilateral trade, the president said he has sought to reduce the obstacles to imports and exports in Brazil. “No wonder we're cutting red tape,” he remarked.
Translated by Fabrício Ferreira