“They heaped praise and said Brazil does a wonderful job [of keeping track of its herds]. Now, they will deliver a report to the SFDA’s upper echelon, so that the Saudi king issues a decree to resume exports,” said Tamer Mansour, manager of government relations at the Arab Brazilian Chamber of Commerce.
The inspectors visited six beef production plants, two cattle farms and one laboratory specialising in cattle diseases, including BSE – the ultimate cause of the Saudi ban on Brazilian beef. The embargo has been in place since 2012, following what Brazil claims were isolated cases of BSE, and the country’s trade authorities have been making strenuous efforts over the last few years to have the ban lifted.
Along with the inspection of beef facilities, the Saudi team also visited poultry production plants, along with a poultry disease lab. Brazilian officials said these visits were aimed at increasing the already substantial amount of Brazilian poultry imported by Saudi Arabia.
“The goal is the lifting of the beef embargo, but also to establish a partnership in the poultry sector,” said Mansour, before the start of the visit.
JBS’s regional sales up
The Middle East remains a key market for many Brazilian food exporters, including JBS, the country’s largest meat producer. The firm’s first-quarter results, released last month, showed its revenues from the Middle East and Africa grew nearly 3% year-on-year to reach US$475m.
However, as a share of exports, sales to the MEA region slipped slightly, from 14.7% in Q1 2014 to 13.4% in the same period this year. Despite this, the region remained the second-largest foreign market for JBS, behind only South America.
JBS’s export sales for the quarter stood at US$3.45bn, up 13% on the year before. Its total sales were US$11.2bn, up 28%, and profit was up dramatically to almost 20 times the Q1 2014 level, at US$464.1m.
Away from the cows and the birds, Brazil’s bees are also trying to gain a foothold in the Saudi and Middle East markets, as the country’s honey producers met importers from across the region last week. In a bid to diversify honey exports away from the US market, trade body Apex Brazil is aiming to woo other buyers through its “Brazil Let’s Bee” project.
Buyers from Saudi Arabia and Lebanon visited the Bio Brazil fair, with producers hoping they will join Oman and Jordan as importers of Brazilian honey. Last year Brazil exported US$98.5m worth of honey, while the first four months of this year saw sales of US$31m, 72% of which were to the US.