China and South Africa have joined Japan in suspending beef imports from Brazil in the wake of confirmation of an atypical case of BSE in the country.
The temporary bans have been imposed despite the South American country's assurances that the case poses no risk whatsoever to public or animal health.
On Friday the Association of Brazilian Beef Exporters issued a statement to clarify that the only markets that have officially placed restrictions on Brazilian beef exports were Japan, South Africa and China.
The three markets collectively represent just 1.5 percent of the total volume of beef exported by Brazil (China 1.31pc, Japan 0.14pc and South Africa 0.06pc).
The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) last week confirmed it had detected the causing agent of BSE in samples taken from a cow that died in 2010 in the southern state of Parana.
The OIE said the animal had not developed symptoms of the disease and there was no evidence it had died as a result of BSE. It maintained Brazil’s status as a country with "an insignificant risk of BSE", the best existing risk classification.
As international media headlines reported the discovery last week, Brazil's leaders moved quickly to assure international markets that their beef is safe.
Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff launched an international information campaign promoting the safety of Brazilian beef, while Brazil's Ministry of Agriculture sent officials to 20 of the country's largest beef export markets to clarify the circumstances behind the detection, and allay fears about disease risk.
Some customer countries such as Chile and the EU have confirmed they will follow the OIE recommendation and will not apply restrictions.
The world's largest beef importer, Russia, which currently sources more than 40pc of its beef import requirements from Brazil, is yet to indicate if it too will impose a ban.
A spokesman for Russia’s veterinary and quarantine service authority, Rosselkhoznadzor, told Reuters newsagency last week the country was "considering" suspending beef imports from Brazil, but the authority has made no further comments since that time.
News agency Agence France-Presse (AFP) said some analysts believed the decision by some markets to shun Brazil's beef may be calculated to compel the government to renegotiate its meat prices.
"Undoubtedly, it is a negative situation which generated a lot of speculation and some importers are already trying to use this to renegotiate prices," said Hyberville Neto, an agribusiness expert with Sao Paulo-based Scot Consultoria.
Brazil's beef export association said it supported Brazilian government efforts to seek jusitications from markets that have restricted imports.
"ABIEC supports the government's efforts and repudiates the disregard of rules and procedures recommended by the OIE which give international trade operations the necessary sanity guarantees," it said.
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