Officials from the US Embassy in Paraguay relayed a message from Washington, US, to meatpacker Minerva SA this week. The message was this: the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has "approved" beef exports from Paraguay, according to Minerva.
This would be a big breakthrough for Paraguayan beef producers, which have been locked out of US and EU markets due to several setbacks related to foot-and-mouth disease.
An APHIS spokesperson said that there had been “positive progress”, but stressed that while the assessment on Paraguay is complete, many things need to happen before imports begin.
"USDA/APHIS has import restrictions in place to prevent foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) from entering into the United States," APHIS said.
"These restrictions include the entry of fresh or frozen beef from countries that present a risk of FMD. APHIS has reviewed the animal health situation in Paraguay, and has completed a risk assessment that examines their FMD safeguards and status related to the export of fresh or frozen beef. Rulemaking will be the next step for APHIS in this process. APHIS will develop a proposed rule, based on the conclusions of the risk assessment that will be published in the Federal Register and available for review and comment. APHIS’ rules address animal health concerns, and other agencies that address public health concerns have processes and protocols that must be completed before imports can occur."
In an email bulletin to the market, Minerva SA said landlocked Paraguay had been approved to export beef to the US. However, this does not mean that every beef exporter in Paraguay will now be able to sell beef to the US.
The next likely move will be sanitary inspections by APHIS officials, who will audit Paraguayan factories beforehand to ensure sanitary and phytosanitary measures are equivalent to those in the US.
Minerva said this process of certification could begin in a couple of months.
Should Brazilian-owned meatpacker Minerva secure market access to the US for its Paraguayan facilities, it would essentially enable the firm to circumnavigate America’s fragile ban on Brazilian beef, which followed the rotten meat scandal in the country.