The murky process of licensing Amazonian meat plants


·         Decades of growth in cattle ranching have meant that Pará is now the state with the largest herd nationwide. At 20.6 million heads, it has 2.5 cattle for every human inhabitant.

·         14 of the 22 Brazilian meat plants approved to export to China since 2019 are in the Amazon.


by Flávia Milhorance, Diálogo Chino

via Mongabay - 8 October 2020


Politicians and meatpackers in Brazil’s Amazonian state of Pará gathered for a celebration in September 2019, cheering the official announcement that four processing plants in the state had won approval to export to mainland China. Photos show delighted participants posing with boxes of meat products


“The ability to enter the Chinese market is something that meat processing plants in our state have been requesting since 2011,” said governor Helder Barbalho who had lobbied hard for the licenses.


Decades of growth in cattle ranching have mean Pará is now the state with the largest herd nationwide at 20.6 million head, equivalent to 2.5 cattle for every inhabitant. At the same time, the region has also broken records for deforestation, sharpening the focus on its contribution to climate change.


Rampant destruction ...


Appetizing Mainland market ...


The pathway to export permits   


To sell meat abroad or nationwide, Brazilian meat processors must be registered with the Federal Inspection Service (SIF). However, SIF’s requirements for its environmental operating license are limited to waste and water management and noise and traffic nuisance near the plant.


Meat processing plants are subject to ongoing inspections, but these do not monitor license renewals or the status of embargos issued by environmental protection agencies for deforestation.


Once the meat processor has its SIF registration number (used in all future inspections), it needs approval from the purchasing country and an international health certificate.


Hong Kong’s market access rules broadly follow exporting countries’ protocols, meaning Brazilian meatpackers can respond to direct requests for export without mediation by Brazil’s federal government. Hong Kong’s requirements, set out in an official letter from the Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture (MAPA), are that only meat must be fit for consumption, without contaminants or prohibited substances, subject to inspections and originate from registered farms.


Mainland China’s rules are much tougher. Authorities audit plants in exporting countries, and may also receive a list of recommended companies for local governments to assess.


The credibility of Brazil’s SIF inspectors was cut to shreds when the Operation Weak Flesh investigation caught officials passing unfit meat, prompting China to freeze export permits.


China’s central administration now requires meatpackers and the Brazilian government to comply with rigorous standards covering a plant’s production capacity and sanitary conditions. In a registration form, China requires details of veterinarians responsible for inspection, potential sources of pollution in the vicinity, risk of cross-contamination inside the factory, the cleanliness of the premises and facilities during storage and transportation, and water treatment.


Besides ensuring quality standards, entrepreneurs must have the capacity to meet growing demand: “China is a giant in terms of consumption, and they need volume,” says Jean Manfredini, Brazil’s agricultural attaché in Beijing.


As Philip Fearnside, an authority on the subject, points out, “This represents a danger that deforestation in the Amazon may increase”.


Uncontrolled production chains ...


Political and economic pressure  ...


Close ties  ...


Agreement reached ...


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