Brazilian Agriculture Minister Tereza Cristina Dias said on Friday the farm sector is worried that President Jair Bolsonaro’s plan to move Brazil’s embassy in Israel to Jerusalem could hurt halal meat exports to Muslim countries.
“Of course the agricultural sector that I represent is worried,” Dias told Reuters, when asked about possible repercussions for trade with Arab countries if the embassy were to be moved. “Brazil cannot lose markets, we need to open new markets,” she said.
Brazil is by far the world’s largest exporter of halal meat. Bolsonaro’s plans to move Brazil’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has upset Egypt and could stir trouble with other Islamic nations.
Brazil exports $16 billion annually to the Middle East and Turkey, with just 3% going to Israel, according to government statistics.
Over a quarter of Brazil’s exports to the region are meat. Brazil’s JBS SA and BRF SA, the world’s top beef producer and poultry exporter, respectively, have bet big on the growing demand for halal meat.
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Brazil exports over $5 billion of halal meat a year, more than twice its nearest rivals, Australia and India, according to Salaam Gateway, a partnership between the Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre and Thomson Reuters.
Bolsonaro’s embassy proposal is part of his overhaul of Brazilian foreign policy, cozying up to major powers such as the United States and undoing what he calls leftist predecessors’ alliances based on “ideological bias.”
On December 28, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flew to Brazil for five days to attend Bolsonaro's inauguration.
Israel is expected to offer information and procurement opportunities to assist Bolsonaro’s flagship project, domestic security, and hopes that in exchange he’ll keep his promise to move the Brazilian Embassy to Jerusalem soon.