Brazil food safety agents start open-ended strike at ports

Food safety inspectors responsible for clearing agricultural goods at Brazilian ports went on an open-ended strike Friday morning, saying there was political mismanagement and businesses were meddling in their agency.

Wilson Roberto de Sa, president of federal food safety inspectors union ANFFA, said more than 80 per cent of the agents who clear all of Brazil’s farm and livestock commodities through ports were adhering to the strike.

Export companies in Brazil, a leading supplier of sugar, coffee, soybeans, corn, beef, poultry and orange juice, have yet to assess the impact of the strike. In past strikes by the food safety agents, medium and large exporters have simply gone to the courts to secure clearance for some products, such as sugar and soybeans.

But this often costs additional money and time. Exporters aware of an impending strike by agents will also clear shipments as far in advance as possible to limit delays.

Brazil is in the peak of record sugarcane and big coffee harvests and is also exporting large volumes of soybeans and corn.

De Sa said the union was protesting the appointment earlier this week of lawyer Rodrigo Figueiredo as head of the food safety agency under the Agriculture Ministry.

De Sa said Figueiredo lacked the technical understanding required by the post. He also said large export-oriented companies, which he did not name, had influenced the ministry’s decision to appoint Figueiredo.

The ministry said after announcing Figueiredo as the new head of the food safety inspection agency that he had held several posts in the ministry, including head of its executive cabinet and spokesman for the secretary for the development of cooperatives.

De Sa said inspectors were also striking over the delay in disbursement of the agency’s operating budget.

— Roberto Samora reports for Reuters from Sao Paulo, Brail. Additional reporting for Reuters by Laiz de Souza; writing by Reese Ewing and Lisa Von Ahn.

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