South Korea today (21 March) lifted an import ban on chicken from BRF, one of the Brazilian meat exporters at the centre of allegations involving meatpackers paying off inspectors to overlook practices including processing rotten meat.

Although the import ban on BRF implemented yesterday has been scrapped, strengthened import inspections of Brazilian chicken meat remain in place, including an increase in the spot inspection rate from 1% to 15%, according to South Korea’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

On Friday, Brazil’s federal police carried out raids on facilities as part a two-year investigation that officials said aimed to reveal “a criminal organisation led by inspectors and agribusiness leaders”. 

Police accuse executives from large meat processing companies of paying politicians and inspectors from Brazil’s Ministry of Agriculture to overlook unsanitary practices, allowing them to manufacture adulterated products. Police claim ministry officials in the states of Paraná, Minas Gerais and Goiás acted to protect the companies.

Brazil’s federal revenue agency released a statement alleging the corrupt inspections resulted in adulterated products being allowed to be sold for human consumption circulating freely in the domestic market, serve as school snacks or being exported.

Brazil’s meat industry is facing restrictions on its exports from a range of markets. Chile and China have suspended imports, while the EU has blocked shipments from four specific Brazilian exporters.

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The South Korean government stressed its additional controls should have no effect on the supply and price of chicken in South Korea.

“The price of chicken meat is expected to stabilise in the near future due to the stabilisation of chicken farming prices and the release of government stockpiles,” added the note from the ministry.

Domestic chicken prices have been under upward pressures amid bird flu outbreaks. South Korea imported 107,000 tonnes of chicken in 2016, 38,000 tons of which came from Brazil.