Brazilian meatpacker JBS SA expects fresh beef exports to the United States to begin no earlier than 2016, later than the Brazilian government predicted, Chief Executive Officer Wesley Batista said on Friday.
An agreement between the two countries was signed in June, when Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff visited Washington, but Batista said it would take time to work through bureaucratic approvals and overcome resistance from U.S. cattle producers.
"I never thought this would be an easy, simple deal," Batista told analysts on a call to discuss second-quarter earnings. JBS is the world's largest beef exporter.
Brazil's agriculture ministry had said exports could begin in August for the first time in 15 years. The U.S. Department of Agriculture took the first steps towards allowing imports in late June, but additional actions are required.
A green light for fresh beef shipments to the United States could help Brazil gain access to other key markets, such as Japan and South Korea, which have banned all beef imports since a mad cow disease scare in late 2012.
The World Animal Health Organization has maintained Brazil's status as a country with an insignificant risk of the disease. Brazil is already a steady exporter of cooked beef that appears in items such as canned corned beef to the United States.
JBS expects 2 percent more cattle to be available for slaughter in the United States in 2016 than this year, and cattle prices are falling because of the expected uptick in supply, Batista said.
Shares of JBS fell 2.9 percent in Sao Paulo the day after the company reported a 68.5 percent drop in second-quarter net profit to 80 million reais ($22.7 million) from a year earlier.
Executives said they were confident of regulatory approval for JBS's $1.45 billion purchase of Cargill Inc's U.S. pork business, a deal that would make it one of the largest and most powerful meat companies in the United States.
($1 = 3.5 reais)