[INTERVIEW] Brazil seeks to boost pork exports to Korea
By Dong Sun-hwa, The Korea Times
SAO PAULO ― Korea opened the market for Brazilian pork only in 2018, following more than 10 years of negotiation. As of now, the country only takes up 1 percent of Brazil's pork export. From January to July in 2019, Brazil exported 3,000 tons of pork, valued at 6.6 billion won ($5.4 million), to Korea.
Korean market tough for Brazil
Ricardo Santin, CEO of Brazilian Association of Animal Protein (ABPA) ― the political and institutional representative of poultry and pork production in Brazil ― told The Korea Times that he wanted to boost the exports.
In fact, Koreans consumed more than 1.3 million tons of pork in 2018, according Korea's Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. The country imported 30 percent of the consumption (464,000 tons) from other countries, but only 0.65 percent (3,000 tons) of it came from Brazil.
Santin said an increase pork export mostly hinged on Korea.
"If Korea intends to buy more pork from Brazil, we are ready to supply," he said in a recent interview at a restaurant in Sao Paulo. "But the Korean market is excessively competitive for us, due to high tariffs. Therefore, we are trying to have a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) deal between Korea and Mercosur, hoping it could reduce the tariff."
Established in 1991, Mercosur is a South American trade bloc ― comprising Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay ― that promotes free trade. Korea has been in talks with Mercosur for an FTA deal since 2018.
Asked why Korea and Brazil's negotiations on pork imports took more than 10 years, Santin again said Korea contributed more to the postponement.
"It was a situation involving both Brazil and Korea, but it depended more on Korea," he said. "Korea had to allow us to sell pork after checking our system and having some negotiations. But a delay in the time was a decision of Korea."
A spokesperson for Korea's Animal and Plant Quarantine Agency told The Korea Times that the country had been cautious due to foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in some Brazilian states. The highly infectious viral illness, which causes a fever and blisters in the mouth and on the feet of pigs, has a fatality rate of 5-55 percent.
"Brazil is a large country so it took us time to find out which region was completely free of FMD," he said. "We also heard some pork available in Brazil came from Argentina, where FMD was not yet exterminated. So we visited Brazil to ascertain facts. These were the reasons for the delay."
The disease has plagued Brazil since 1895. But the country has been a FMD-free zone since 2006, according to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).
Nevertheless, Korea has been importing pork only from Santa Catarina state in southern Brazil, which OIE recognizes as free of FMD, where no vaccination was ever practiced in the past.
Saying Brazil did not import pork from Argentina, Santin added that the country had been preparing to export to Korea pork from two other states, despite Korea's strict quarantine conditions.
"Rio Grande do Sul and Parana, the two neighboring states of Santa Catarina, are working for this," the CEO said. "Although vaccination was practiced in these two states in the past, both are now free of FMD. But OIE needs to declare them as FMD-free regions first. Parana already started the process and asked for a check."
But Santin said he could not provide details about future exports or revenue from Korea because it was the Brazilian pork producers who set the goals.
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