Brazil seeks to boost pork exports to Korea

Brazil seeks to boost pork exports to Korea

Korea opened the market for Brazilian pork only in 2018, following more than 10 years of negotiation. As of now, the country only takes up 1 percent of Brazil's pork export. From January to July in 2019, Brazil exported 3,000 tons of pork, valued at 6.6 billion won ($5.4 million), to Korea.

Korean market tough for Brazil

Ricardo Santin, CEO of Brazilian Association of Animal Protein (ABPA) ― the political and institutional representative of poultry and pork production in Brazil ― told The Korea Times that he wanted to boost the exports.

In fact, Koreans consumed more than 1.3 million tons of pork in 2018, according Korea's Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. The country imported 30 percent of the consumption (464,000 tons) from other countries, but only 0.65 percent (3,000 tons) of it came from Brazil.

Santin said an increase pork export mostly hinged on Korea.

"If Korea intends to buy more pork from Brazil, we are ready to supply," he said in a recent interview at a restaurant in Sao Paulo. "But the Korean market is excessively competitive for us, due to high tariffs. Therefore, we are trying to have a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) deal between Korea and Mercosur, hoping it could reduce the tariff."

Established in 1991, Mercosur is a South American trade bloc ― comprising Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay ― that promotes free trade. Korea has been in talks with Mercosur for an FTA deal since 2018.

Asked why Korea and Brazil's negotiations on pork imports took more than 10 years, Santin again said Korea contributed more to the postponement.

"It was a situation involving both Brazil and Korea, but it depended more on Korea," he said. "Korea had to allow us to sell pork after checking our system and having some negotiations. But a delay in the time was a decision of Korea."

A spokesperson for Korea's Animal and Plant Quarantine Agency told The Korea Times that the country had been cautious due to foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in some Brazilian states. The highly infectious viral illness, which causes a fever and blisters in the mouth and on the feet of pigs, has a fatality rate of 5-55 percent.

"Brazil is a large country so it took us time to find out which region was completely free of FMD," he said. "We also heard some pork available in Brazil came from Argentina, where FMD was not yet exterminated. So we visited Brazil to ascertain facts. These were the reasons for the delay."

The disease has plagued Brazil since 1895. But the country has been a FMD-free zone since 2006, according to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

Nevertheless, Korea has been importing pork only from Santa Catarina state in southern Brazil, which OIE recognizes as free of FMD, where no vaccination was ever practiced in the past.

Saying Brazil did not import pork from Argentina, Santin added that the country had been preparing to export to Korea pork from two other states, despite Korea's strict quarantine conditions.

"Rio Grande do Sul and Parana, the two neighboring states of Santa Catarina, are working for this," the CEO said. "Although vaccination was practiced in these two states in the past, both are now free of FMD. But OIE needs to declare them as FMD-free regions first. Parana already started the process and asked for a check."

But Santin said he could not provide details about future exports or revenue from Korea because it was the Brazilian pork producers who set the goals.

Brazil free of African swine fever (ASF)

However, the Korea Pork Producers Association has recently demanded that the Korean government strengthen the quarantine of Brazilian pork, fearing the possible dissemination of African swine fever (ASF) in the South American country.

ASF is a highly contagious viral disease of pigs that can cause a high fever and internal bleeding, and there is not yet a vaccine. Its mortality rate can be as high as 100 percent for the acute forms and 30-70 percent for the chronic forms. The disease recently occurred in countries including China, North Korea, Hong Kong, Vietnam and many others, but not in Brazil.

"Korea has no reason to worry about it, because Brazil does not have ASF; we already export our pork to more than 17 countries," Santin said. "We have strict biosecurity measures on our farms to prevent the disease. For instance, nobody, even the technical support, can get inside a farm unless he calls the person in charge."

According to ABPA's biosecurity procedures, the association recommends that farmers and companies not to raise any other bird species in the property, keep the farm area isolated by a fence, clean and disinfect the facilities according to technical orientation, and ensure the water resources are sealed to avoid contamination. There are many more regulations.

To guard against avian flu, visitors to poultry farms must also first undergo a quarantine period ― ranging from three to seven days ― without contacts with birds or establishments that contain birds. The ABPA also requires the visitors to take bath and change into new clothes beforehand.

Brazil, the world's fourth largest pork exporter, is also known to have no registered case of Avian Influenza (AI) or bird flu, another contagious disease.

Amazon biome and Brazilian poultry, swine industry

Santin also commented on the forest fires in the Amazon, which is dubbed "the planet's lungs" for producing 20 percent of the Earth's oxygen.

According to Santin, Brazilian poultry and swine production are mostly located in the southern part of the country, far from the Amazon biome. Most production takes place in the South, where the climate is favorable and more grains are available.

"The ABPA is against illegal deforestation and recognizes the need for correct actions to prevent the spread of fire," he added.

He also delivered his thoughts on a remark by Finnish finance minister Mika Lintilla. The minister wrote on his Twitter on Aug 23 that "The EU and Finland are urgently exploring the possibility of banning imports of Brazilian beef." Some people blame Brazilian cattle ranchers for clearing the forest and causing the fires.

Although the ABPA does not deal with beef, Santin said he considered the minister's words as political rhetoric.

"I respect Finland's decision, but don't support it," he said.

Meanwhile, the ABPA organized the 2019 International Poultry and Pork Expo (SIAVS) on Aug 27-29 at the Anhembi Parque in Sao Paulo. It is the country's largest poultry and pig farming fair, which attracted more than 15,000 visitors such as importers and buyers from 51 countries. About 150 companies, including Brazil's top food companies BRF and Seara, exhibited their products and solutions. The fair aims to share the unique characteristics and strengths of the Brazilian pork and poultry industry. es un sitio web oficial del Gobierno Argentino