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Brazil beef exports to U.S. rise amid China-Australia trade spat

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By Nayara Figueiredo

SAO PAULO, July 1 (Reuters) - Strained trade relations between China and Australia have prompted Chinese importers to buy more U.S. beef, making room for Brazil to increase exports to the United States, trade data show.

The trend helps JBS SA, Marfrig Global Foods SA and Minerva SA, which have multiple plants approved to ship products to the United States and could benefit from more export permits.

In the five months to May, Brazilian beef shipments to the U.S. market rose 165.6% to 33,800 tonnes, according to Brazilian beef lobby Abiec. Exports surged 186% in May alone, making the United States the third biggest foreign buyer of Brazilian beef.

Data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture show the United States sold 48,292 tonnes of beef to China from January to April, up sharply from 3,255 tonnes in the same period of 2020.

"We expect the U.S. will direct part of its meat to China to offset the reduction in exports from Australia to that country," said Lygia Pimentel, director of agribusiness consultancy Agrifatto. "With this, Brazil ends up gaining space in the U.S. market."

Brazil's pork export to the United States may also benefit from the trend, she said.

JBS has 12 units authorized to export to the United States and is looking at ways to expand that trade, the company told Reuters.

Last week, Brazil's Agriculture Ministry cleared a Marfrig plant in Rondonia state for exports to the United States. That unit and another one in Rio Grande do Sul are now awaiting approval from U.S. authorities to begin exporting.

Marfrig said it already exports fresh and processed beef to the United States from four plants in Brazil.

Rival Minerva was authorized last week to export cooked and frozen products to the U.S. market from a facility in Sao Paulo state, the company's sixth plant cleared for beef exports to the United States. (Reporting by Nayara Figueiredo Writing by Ana Mano Editing by Jonathan Oatis)