January 31, 2019 / 3:32 PM / 16 days ago

Brazil to restart high-level talks with China, could boost farm trade

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazil and China are expected to hold their first high-level political and economic talks since 2015 later this year, Brazil’s agriculture trade secretary told Reuters on Thursday, in a move likely to boost farm trade between the two countries.

The first meeting of the China-Brazil High-Level Coordination and Cooperation Committee (Cosban), last convened under former President Dilma Rousseff, is “very probable” for the second half of the year, said Orlando Leite Ribeiro, who oversees trade and international relations at the Agriculture Ministry.

The meeting should advance talks to permit more Brazilian meatpackers to export to China and to accelerate Chinese approvals of genetically modified (GMO) products, Ribeiro said in an interview.

China is Brazil’s largest trade partner and is the top importer of Brazilian soy and beef.

Brazil exports to China totaled $64.2 billion in value last year, up 35 percent year-on-year, thanks in part as China boosted its soy imports from the South American country amid a trade war with the United States.

China sent a delegation to Brazil in December to visit factories producing beef, poultry and donkey, with an eye on allowing more plants to export.

“Our expectation is that this will result in openings. This is a very important year with China, we will have Cosban, so I want to believe that this year we will have good news, major advancements,” Ribeiro said.

Regarding GMO approvals, Brazilian farmers often cannot use the latest seed technology over concerns they will not be able to sell their crop to China, he said.

Some products have waited more than two years for approval, after China reduced the frequency of approval meetings several years ago, Ribeiro said.

“The expectation is to restart these talks and that we will speed up the process of approvals,” he said.

Cosban talks had been halted because they were usually led by the vice president, a position left vacant when Michel Temer assumed the presidency after Rousseff was impeached in 2016.

Regarding a clampdown earlier this month by Saudi Arabia on Brazilian poultry plants permitted to export, Ribeiro said more plants were affected than previously disclosed by meatpackers association ABPA.

Saudi Arabia reduced the number of business units - including factories, processing plants and distribution centers - permitted to export by 38, leaving 25 still able to send shipments, he said. Those 25 correspond to 63 percent of Brazil’s poultry exports to Saudi Arabia, or 437,000 tonnes.

Saudi Arabia did not give a reason for revoking permits for the other plants and a Brazilian agricultural attaché will meet with Saudi authorities this weekend to discuss the issue.

Reporting by Jake Spring; Editing by Bernadette Baum

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