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Brazil's Minerva sees zoonotic risks unjustifiably blocking trade

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By Ana Mano

SAO PAULO, July 26 (Reuters) - Unreasonable animal health risk assessments continue to hamper the global meat trade, the director of institutional affairs at Brazilian beef processor Minerva, Joao Sampaio, said on Tuesday.

To give an example, Sampaio mentioned Turkey, which refuses to import beef from Brazil but does buy live cattle from the country.

"They don't import beef, alleging the risk of foot-and-mouth disease," Sampaio said during a panel discussion on animal health. "But Turkey imports live cattle, which is even riskier."

Turkey would rather import live cattle and slaughter the animal domestically because of religious factors, according to Sampaio.

The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) describes foot-and-mouth disease as "a severe, highly contagious viral disease of livestock that has a significant economic impact."

In 2018, the OIE declared Brazil, the world's largest beef exporter, as free of foot-and-mouth disease with vaccination.

This year, Brazil's agriculture ministry decided to suspend vaccination against foot-and-mouth disease in six states from November 2022, according to state-run news agency Agencia Brasil.

That means 113 million cattle and buffaloes would no longer be vaccinated, which corresponds to almost 50% of the country's total herd, Agencia Brasil said citing the ministry.

The suspension is part of a program to expand foot-and-mouth disease-free zones without vaccination. The Brazilian government's goal is for the country to become totally free of the disease without vaccination by 2026.

Indonesia is another market Brazil could increase beef trade with, Sampaio said, saying that country selectively imports beef from Brazil but bans certain plants and locations, citing zoonotic concerns.

"Now, Indonesia faces a foot-and-month disease outbreak," Sampaio said. The health scare comes at a time when Indonesia's imports of live cattle from Australia dropped, disrupting internal supplies.

"We need to negotiate more, open more markets," Sampaio said. (Reporting by Ana Mano)