BRASILIA/BEIJING, -- China lifted a ban on imports of meat from Brazil on Saturday after Brazilian authorities clarified details of a police investigation into alleged bribery of health inspectors, in a victory for President Michel Temer's efforts to stem damage from the probe.
The move by China, the biggest national consumer of Brazilian meat, was accompanied on Saturday by the lifting of import bans in Egypt and Chile, bringing hope of an end to a crisis that saw one-fifth wiped off the value of Brazilian pork and poultry exports last week.
A slew of major meat importers issued bans after Brazilian federal police unveiled on March 17 an investigation into alleged payments to government health officials by meat processing companies to forego inspections and ignore abuses, codenamed "Operation Weak Flesh".
Meat is Brazil's third-largest export, after soy and iron ore. The country sold around $13.5 billion in chicken, beef and pork products last year.
Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi welcomed China's decision and said the government retained a ban on exports from 21 processing plants directly linked to the federal police investigation as it carried out its own inspections.
"Lifting this suspension was the result of a giant effort by Brazil to explain that the investigation targeted the conduct of individuals and not the quality of the meat," Maggi told Reuters.
China had suspended imports of all meat products from Brazil, the world's top beef exporter, on March 20 as a precautionary measure.
Chile on Saturday said it was ending a ban on meat purchases from Brazil, except for the 21 suspended plants, while Egypt also resumed imports after a two day-suspension.
The decision by China was crucial because of its size: it consumed some $1.75 billion in Brazilian meat imports last year.
Source: Emirates News Agency