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Brazilian Beef Kicks Back Over Protests

18 August 2009

BRAZIL - The Brazilian beef industry has hit back at the latest round of protests from UK and Irish farmers' unions. A statement from the Association of Brazilian Beef Exporters (ABIEC) says that the true concerns of these unions arise not from food traceability, but from market competition.

Otávio Hermont Cançado, Executive Director of ABIEC, expressed his disappointment in the negative press that surfaced last week. "The insistence of Irish and English cattle farmers on attacking the quality of Brazilian beef is an example that, although the global market is changing every day, some types of rhetoric still survive, despite being outdated and time-worn," he said.

Last week, Padraig Walshe, President of the Irish Farmers Association said the latest EU commission Food and Veterinary Office Report proves that "once again that beef production in Brazil flies in the face of EU standards." Walshe claimed that half of the holdings inspected failed to meet EU requirements on the important issues of registration, traceability and movement controls. In addition he said unapproved beef from Brazil entering the EU poses a serious and unacceptable risk in terms of Foot and Mouth Disease to the European Union.

According to Mr Cançado, Walshe's speech indicated: "The time lag typical of those who are least prepared or who have a lower level of competitive excellence - of those who defend an industry no longer capable of growing in the global market; and who arrogantly and immorally try to justify the adoption of knowingly mistaken policies."

Mr Cançado added that Irish and English farmers sit on generous subsidies that "completely distort the global market."

"Farmers from these two countries have watched time pass without themselves being able to achieve high-quality competitive output unless their Governments earmark a large portion of community treasures to support them. Such subsidies, widely used in past decades, still exist in the competitive global economy, where, however, free competition is the path to follow," wrote Mr Cançado.

"Unfortunately, groups holding out against this not-so-recent reality still insist on playing this unfair game, resorting to misinformation and bullying in order to impose themselves on the global market and preserve a subsidised stability to the detriment of competitive modernity; but this is actually a disservice to European citizens, daily bombarded with a false reality.

"A series of entrepreneurial and government-level meetings have been held in recent years to put an end to the practices of subsidies and absurd protectionism, precisely because they entail huge distortions in global trade. But little has been done by the countries that adopt such tools."

Mr Cançado says that Brazil and other developing nations have been forced to invest substantially in research and technology in order to sell to markets which, thanks to globalisation, have become increasingly demanding. Brazil has the climate and landscape to produce high quality, competitive beef. Even without a government treasury to support its livestock industry, the country has managed to enter over 180 markets. All access to markets acquired over the last ten years has been legitimate, achieved without the use of any tool or artifice that could unfairly affect competing countries, says ABIEC's MD.

Defending the Brazilian industry against claims of high-prevalence of Foot and Mouth Disease amongst some export areas, Mr Cançado says that the Brazilian government has never withheld information from foreign competent bodies. "From the OIE to DG Sanco, all authorities were notified of the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak that occurred in October 2005 in the States of Mato Grosso do Sul and Parana."

"Every measure taken to isolate the virus and move the herd from that region of the Country to a disease-free health status was immediately communicated to the countries to which Brazil sells its beef."

Hitting back at the accusations, Mr Cançado says that Ireland has a very unfavourable track record, especially when it comes to mad cow disease"

Since 2001, that country has registered over 1,100 cases of the disease, according to the OIE. Additionally, there were 23 cases of this disease in 2008, numbers which, though lower than figures posted for previous years, show that the country still has a lot to do to meet the controls laid down by the European Community, considering the multiple flaws previously pointed out by the FVO inspection reports in the country, says Mr Cançado.

"As regards Foot-and-Mouth Disease, the latest records of the disease in the United Kingdom date from 2007, when in August there was an outbreak notified in the county of Surrey and, in December 2007, this and four other outbreaks were quickly and inexplicably solved, as were multiple records of contamination of European livestock with dioxin."

"The “suffering” highlighted in Mr Walshe’s recent comments conveys, in our view, his lack of commitment to Irish rural producers and his alienation from the new global economic order, which will sooner or later require changes in behavior, since the public treasures of the European Union are already showing signs of fatigue in supporting sectors that are notoriously incapable of meeting the fierce competition of the international market in commodities such as beef," said Mr Cançado.

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