Exporting Brazilian Beef To The EU

Murilo Quintiliano from FAI Farms, Brazil, gives TheCattleSite his opinion on the trade of beef between Brazil and Europe, as well as the many criticisms which Brazilian beef has received from some EU countries.
calendar icon 14 June 2011
clock icon 4 minute read

Background

In 2008 the EU imposed a ban on Brazilian beef. The EU claims that the ban was based largely on the fact the neither Brazil or any of the other South American countries involved in the negotiations met or complied with the same traceability, welfare and environmental standards required of EU farmers. The standards which significantly add to EU farmer's cost of production.

The export market opened back up after a month. However only farms under the official traceability system (SISBOV) are allowed to export to the EU. And this is a minority, says Mr Quintiliano, less than 4000 farms are certified.

He says that the uptake of the system is low due to a number of reasons. To start with, the traceability system is a difficult concept to introduce to many Brazilian farms. Secondly, many who did join did not see the benefits promised to them and so quit the system.

For example, Mr Quintiliano says that it is not easy to have 15 digit numbers for each cow, when herds are 1,000 cows or more. This requires a lot of technology and technical assistance, which is just not available on the majority of farms.

Despite this, producers are aware of all cattle in their herd, as they have learnt that lack of control leads to production losses and high costs.

Animal welfare

Mr Quintiliano says that in practice, the Brazilian beef production system is better than that of the EU. 95 per cent of beef cattle in Brazil are raised on a range system, with only five per cent finished in feedlots (for an average of three months).

The handling of cattle has vastly improved over the last 15 years, with information much more widely available. Mr Quintiliano says he is fortunate to be a part of this through FAI, with the ETCo Group, EMBRAPA, WSPA and others.

He adds that all the major slaughterhouses are part of a welfare certification system - as the majority of importing countries demand this.

On top of this, the government is improving legislation, with particular focus on transport and slaughter.

The environment

Discussing environmental legislation, Mr Quintiliano says that environmental protection laws are very restrictive. Personally, he has found that the environmental pressure in Brazil is much greater than in the EU.

For example, Brazilian farmers must keep (depending on their area) a particular percentage of the farm in its original environmental state. In the Amazon region this can be up to 80 per cent of the farm. This is without financial or other compensation from the government.

Mr Quintiliano says that on average, current capacity is one animal per hectare. However with simple soil conservation, and forage production techniques this capacity can be doubled or even tripled.

Figures in the last 10 years show that number of beef cattle in Brazil rose from 164 to 191 million animals, whilst pasture areas decreased from 175-171 million hectares, due to technical improvements.

EU & Mercosur trade deal

Brazilian beef has received a substantial amount of criticism - often producers are accused of producing beef to lower standards, than beef produced in the EU.

However, Mr Quintiliano believes that when foreign producers talk about lower standards, they are more worried about protecting their own production (which is natural) than they are about good standards.

For example, he looks at animal welfare, which is his expertise. He says that he can name thousands of Brazilian farms with exceptional welfare standards. Not welfare standards measured in commercial values, but measured as scientific values, under the five freedoms and recent welfare research.

Finally, Mr Quintiliano quoshes reports that say that Brazilian beef producers use growth promoters in production. In fact, Mr Quintiliano says that in Brazil, the use of any kind of growth promoters in cattle are illegal, and he has never heard or seen anyone using it illegally.

Concluding Mr Quintiliano says that an open and truthful discussion, weighing up the pros and the cons of a Mercosur deal is needed by both sides. He says this discussion would allow consumers to make a reliable decision over which beef to buy.

June 2011

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