The European Union will freeze all imports of Brazilian beef as from Thursday after Brazil failed to provide sufficient sanitary safety guarantees announced in Brussels EU Health and Consumer Affairs Commissioner Markos Kyprianou.
Last month EU warned Brazil, the world's biggest beef exporter, that only beef from an authorized and certified list of Brazilian farms would be allowed into the EU as from the end of January.
Since such a list could not be agreed on, "at this stage as we speak, there will be no holdings authorized to export to the European Union," underlined Commissioner Kyprianou.
"This move must be seen as a wake-up call for the Brazilian government, which has failed to respond to concerns of the European Union" said MEP Neil Parish, chairman of the European Parliament's agriculture committee.
EU decided on the measures following inspections last November which found Brazil's animal health and traceability systems failed to meet EU requirements on farm registration, animal identification and movement controls.
After the initial EU warning, the Brazilian authorities came up with a list of 2.600 farms they said deserved to be exempt from the export ban. Such a massive list was unacceptable for European authorities and hence the blanket ban on Brazilian beef.
However Kyprianou said it was possible to compile a list of authorized Brazilian beef suppliers but warned it would be a lengthy process.
"The timeframe depends on the number and on the complexities and the problems that we may suspect in each holding," he underlined.
Last month Brazil slammed as "unjustified" the original EU decision to put restrictions on its beef imports. Brazil argued there was no risk to humans or animals with Brazilian beef and blamed the EU decision on tougher European regulations imposed in the wake of Britain's "mad cow" epidemics.
The beef controversy, which is particularly strong in Britain and Ireland, is rooted in disputes over traceability of origin and control of livestock movements. EU insists cattle must remain on approved locations for at least 40 days before being sent to the abattoir.
The Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) welcomed the decision. IFA President Padraig Walshe said it was the result of a determined two-year campaign highlighting Brazil's failure to meet EU standards.
"Brazil had failed on foot and mouth disease controls, movement and traceability, border controls and animal health and food safety issues" he claimed. "Kyprianou had no option but to apply a full ban as Brazil had failed to comply with EU requirements".
Three Brazilian states which suffered foot-and-mouth outbreaks are already subject to a beef ban by the EU. Brazil has become the world's biggest beef exporter shipping 2.3 million tons annually equivalent to 4.2 billion US dollars. In 2006 a record year for Brazilian sales to the EU, beef exports totaled 698.000 tons.
"This is merely an expression of protectionism; it has nothing to do with sanitary issues. It's just to help Irish breeders increase the price of cattle and beef", said Marcus Vinicius Pratini de Moraes, president of the Association of Brazilian Beef Exporters.
Brazil's two main meat packers JBS and Marfrig, which have become global corporations, said they would have to reroute shipments to the EU from other countries where they have strong interests and direct access to EU such as Argentina, Uruguay, Australia and United States.