Brazilian beef imports to Australia? Mystery solved

Jon Condon, 13/12/2017

HAS fresh beef from Brazil been imported recent into Australia, in direct contravention with Australia’s access rules?

The prospect has been doing the rounds of industry lately, with statistics in an official ABIEC (Brazilian Beef Exporters) export summary causing some concern.

As can be seen in the image below (click on image for a larger view), the ABIEC report clearly suggests that 55 tonnes of fresh beef (understood to mean chilled and frozen, but uncooked) was exported from Brazil to Australia during 2017.  It placed a value on that product of US$152,000, or $2740/tonne. No entry was recorded the year before – as Australia would expect – making the 2017 trade all the more suspicious.

Click on table for a larger view

Beef from Brazil is not permitted for import to Australia, on Foot & Mouth and BSE disease risk grounds. Currently the only international countries permitted to export beef to Australia are New Zealand, and Vanuatu.

Beef Central took the report to the Australian Department of Agriculture’s import export department, which said it had no record of any such imports from Brazil, but it could not explain how such an entry would appear on Brazilian export statistics. One theory suggested the report perhaps meant ‘Austria’ instead of ‘Australia.’

Beef Central asked a Portuguese-speaking contact in Brazil to look into the mystery for us.

He contacted ABIEC, which suggested an Australian-based meat trading company had made the purchase, but the beef was in fact destined for another, third-party end-market. The body admitted that the data entries contained in its reports consider the buyer of the beef, not necessarily its final destination.

A second entry in the report, covering ‘industrialised/processed’ beef exports looks genuine.

It suggested a total of 588 tonnes of Brazilian beef, worth about US$3600/t, had been sold into Australia this year. A slightly smaller amount appeared the year before.

Fully cooked (ie sterilised) ‘processed’ beef products containing Brazilian beef do enter Australia. The most notable is tinned Stagg chili, a university student staple, made by food giant Hormel using cooked beef sourced out of Brazil. Cooked, tinned corned beef is another example which can be found on supermarket shelves.

Case apparently closed.

Brazil on track for 1.5m tonnes annual export

Despite this year’s extensive and prolonged meat scandals plaguing the Brazilian beef industry, Brazil beef exporting group ABIEC reported exports (all descriptions, including offals) of 1.205 million tonnes for the calendar year to the end of October, up about 60,000t on the corresponding period the year before.

Brazil expects total 2017 exports to reach around 1.5 million tonnes, despite the setback caused by industry crises earlier this year including a federal probe into alleged corruption of health inspectors.

Yesterday Brazil’s Agriculture Minister suggested the country would ‘very soon’ resume beef exports to the United States, breaking a ban implemented in June after US officials said quality problems were found in some shipments.

The minister said resumption of beef exports could happen as soon as early next year, but did not elaborate.

Currently Brazil’s main meat customers are Hong Kong, China, Russia and the European Union, which imported about half of all the country’s beef products.


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  1. Maree Gower, 25/05/2020

    Dont get it, why are we bringing in beef from anywhere????? Why isnt there enough Australian Beef?

  2. Ray Cronwell, 01/10/2019

    I will never buy staff chilli again. Cheap beef is not worth removing the amazon rainforest.

  3. John pace, 19/06/2019

    Why is this corned beef sold in woolies stores in Australia?
    I purchased a woolies brand but fine-print shows its made in Brazil ..
    I better not get sick over this otherwise heads will roll.

    Few people are aware of it, but Brazilian beef is permitted in Australia, in certain high-temperate cooked forms, John. Most of it is in tinned items like corned beef and Stagg Chili – a popular cheap meal among uni students. The cooking process eliminates any risk of FMD contamination. Much of it is produced in the US, using Brazilian raw material, by Hormel, one of the world’s largest manufactured foods producers. Quantities imported to Australia are very small. Editor

  4. Brad Bellinger, 16/12/2017

    Editor; The billion dollar cost comes from 176m tags on the NLIS database @$3.70 each tag is $651m. 176M tags reading charge @$1.50 is $264m. Governemt contributions 30m.Total $945m.
    Extra labour costs on farm and NLIS database maintenance costs would easily bring the total to over $1 billion since the inception of NLIS RFID.
    I testified at 3 Senate inquiries to stop the importation of beef from countries that had cases of BSE. At those hearings both CCA and MLA senior representatives asked the government to allow the imports. The evidence is in Hansard.
    In terms of quid pro quo in terms of imports it must be noted that in the USA /Aus FTA we have removed tariffs from USA imports to AUS .However Aus some exports to the USA still carried tariffs reduced over time with snap back provisions on a quota limit.As a result our trade deficit with the USA has doubled since the FTA came into effect.

  5. Brad Bellinger, 15/12/2017

    The Stag Chilli Beef cans are labelled (made in the USA from local and imported ingredients.).The Australian Government has forced producers to comply with the billion dollar cost of NLIS yet allow beef into the country that we do not know which country it comes from let alone what cow. Of course MLA and CCA are silent on this issue as they support the imports.

    Not sure where your ‘billion dollar cost’ claim comes from, Brad. Nor that it is fair to say that MLA/CCA simply ‘support’ imports. More accurately, their message is that as a heavily export trade-exposed industry, Australian beef seeks market access based on scientific grounds. But that has to be quid pro quo, in terms of imports, given suitable risk assessment. Are there pro-NLIS stakeholders out there who want to offer a comment? As always, Beef Central invites comment from all stakeholder perspectives. The fact we publish Brad’s comment in no way suggests that Beef Central supports any particular opinion over another. Editor

  6. John, 13/12/2017

    extremely high cattle price will hurt the Australia market share soon in the coming years.

    Full name required for all future comments, please John – as per our long-standing comment policy: Editor

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