Marfrig resumes US beef sales amid COVID-19 disruptions

Brazilian meat packing giant Marfrig Global Foods has resumed sales of fresh beef from Brazil to the United States as the coronavirus epidemic restricts US beef supplies.
calendar icon 28 April 2020
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According to Reuters, Marfrig’s chief executive reports that the sales are part of an earlier trade agreement between the company and the US.

Sales of fresh beef from Brazil to the United States resumed in February after a ban, which had been in place since 2017, was lifted. The initial ban was attributed to health and safety concerns with the imports.

The first shipments should occur this month, Marfrig CEO Miguel Gularte said in an interview on Friday.

An increase in US beef purchases was first identified at Marfrig's units in Argentina and Uruguay.

"In the last 15 days this has been noticed in Brazil," Gularte said, without detailing volumes.

Though the company already had a strategy of resuming shipments to the US, consumer demand for fresh beef has increased due to coronavirus lockdowns and meat plant closures in the US.

Marfrig, which owns Missouri-based National Beef, temporarily suspended production at its Iowa beef plant after workers tested positive for COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus.

The company does not plan to suspend production at any other US plants, he said.

National Beef's total slaughtering capacity in the United States is 13,000 head per day, with 1,100 at the Iowa plant, which has resumed production, Gularte said.

US rivals including JBS SA and Tyson Foods also have had to suspend production at some plants, raising the prospect of meat shortages in the United States.

Overall Brazilian beef exports rose by 5 percent in the first quarter while Marfrig's own beef sales abroad soared 24 percent, driven mainly by strong Chinese demand.

A rise in US meat sales is likely in the short term as American consumers stock up on food during the health crisis, he said.

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