With The Stakes High, Brazil Meat Industry Dominates Lula Delegation To China

Employees work at the assembly line of jerked beef at a plant of JBS S.A, the world’s largest beef producer, in Santana de Parnaiba, Brazil December 19, 2017.

More than a quarter of business leaders traveling to China with President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva next week come from Brazil’s booming meat industry, highlighting the high stakes for a sector reliant on Chinese demand for the bulk of its exports.

With 69 of the nearly 250 executives traveling, meatpackers dominate a roster including wood pulp producers, a soy crushers group and executives from the mining, construction and financial services industry, according to a preliminary government list of the business delegations seen by Reuters.

JBS SA, the world’s largest meat company, which sent about 26% of its global exports to China last year, will have around ten representatives in the delegation, including three from the Batista family that controls the business.

BRF SA, the world’s biggest chicken exporter, aims to send five executives, including Chairman Marcos Molina, the founder of Marfrig Global Foods SA, which holds a controlling stake in BRF.

Other names on the government list, dated March 18, include the CEOs of iron ore miner Vale SA, planemaker Embraer SA, pulp producer Suzano SA and engineering group Novonor, formerly Odebrecht.

Lula departs for China this weekend, but many of the delegation’s executives and lobby groups have traveled ahead of the president, government officials said.

JBS representatives said China is a key trading partner and the company aims to bolster commercial ties. Marfrig declined to comment. BRF, Vale, Embraer, Suzano and Novonor did not return a request for comment.

J&F, the Batista family investment firm that owns JBS and has interests in pulp production and energy, declined to comment on its expectations for the trip. A person close to the firm said China is J&F’s largest market.


ABPA, Brazil’s association of pork and poultry processors, is sending at least three representatives. In a statement, ABPA said they are seeking recognition from Beijing that Rio Grande do Sul and Parana are free of foot-and-mouth disease without vaccination, in order to export pork with bones and pork offal.

ABPA is also pushing for export permits for more factories.

China buys 44% of Brazil’s pork exports by volume and around 14% of its chicken exports, according to ABPA data for the first two months of 2023.

Two major beef industry groups, Abiec and Abrafrigo, are also sending representatives. One of their priorities is convincing China to lift a beef export ban enforced on Feb. 23 after a case of mad cow disease was discovered in Brazil.

Neither association replied to a request for comment.

“Tomorrow marks one month since the embargo,” said Jo?o Figueiredo, an analyst at Datagro Pecuaria. “The expectation is positive for the reopening to take place in the next few days, and potentially during the (presidential) mission.”

According to a Brazilian government source, China already has all the information needed about the mad cow case.

Brazil also aims to renegotiate the sanitary protocols under which a single mad cow case triggers an export ban for the whole country. Beef producers in Brazil lose up to $25 million per day with the embargo in place.

Some 62% of Brazil’s beef exports went to China last year.