The first meeting of a Brazil-Saudi Arabia joint commission in 34 years this week saw officials approve new shipping procedures for Brazilian food products. Most significantly for Brazil’s beef producers, officials hammered out a plan for a visit in May and June for Saudi inspectors to tour Brazilian slaughterhouses.
This move should be one of the last steps required for Saudi Arabia to lift its ban on Brazilian beef, provided all goes well. The ban has been in place since 2012, when it was revealed one Brazilian animal had become infected with bovine spongiform encephalitis.
“I believe this measure will erase the negative image stemming from the fact that Brazil did not report the occurrence of the mad cow causative agent in a cow in Paraná in timely manner. This is sure to improve relations,” said Michel Alaby, CEO of the Arab-Brazilian Chamber of Commerce.
A statement from the Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture said: “This visit precedes the SFDA’s inspection mission, which is the final stage before the Saudi market is reopened. We are expecting to show the high standards in veterinary control and livestock production in Brazil.”
Mixed trade figures
The meeting came as new figures revealed Brazilian beef exports to the Middle East rose 2.2% by value in the first quarter of 2015 compared to last year, to reach US$246.3m. This bucked an overall drop of 17.6% in Brazil’s global beef exports, which totalled US$1.3bn.
However, the trade figures also showed total agribusiness exports from Brazil to the Middle East fell 4.3% by value in March compared with the year before, with a total value of US$517m. Some countries showed big increases, however, including Saudi Arabia, which imported US$134m in Brazilian food and agricultural products, up 30.7% year-on-year.
The Saudi-Brazilian trade meeting also set in place new rules for online document certification. The system promises to cut processing times by 75%, eliminating the need for physical certificates to be passed back and forth between national embassies, trade bodies and vendors.
“The cost is lower and there are advantages to exporters and importers alike, because the time required for documents to be legalized drops from 20 to five days. The risk of issuance of forged documents [by other legal entities] is ruled out,” said the Arab Chamber’s Alaby.