Brazil says 13 meatpacking plants approved for exports to China

Changes dateline, adds ABPA statement

SÃO PAULO, Nov 12 (Reuters) - Thirteen meatpacking plants in Brazil have been approved for exporting meat products to China, Brazilian agriculture minister Tereza Cristina Dias tweeted on Tuesday, as the South American nation seeks to remain one of China's main food suppliers.

The approvals come as China deals with fallout from African swine fever, a devastating disease that has decimated pig herds in Asia and disrupted global meat supplies.

Meatpacking firm BRF SA's BRFS3.SA pork plant in Lajeado is one of the units approved by China, Chief Executive Lorival Luz said on Tuesday at a company event in Sao Paulo.

That plant has capacity to process 5,000 head per day, Luz said on the sidelines of the event.

Industry group ABPA, which represents poultry and pork processors, welcomed the news.

"It set the tone of the partnership that China and Brazil are building to guarantee food security and the expansion of [bilateral] trade in the run-up to the BRICS nation summit," ABPA's president Francisco Turra said in a statement on Tuesday.

Of the 13 new plants approved, five are pork plants and three are chicken processing units, ABPA said. The remaining five are beef-packers, the ministry said in response to a Reuters query.

The approvals raised the total number of pork plants authorized to export to China to 16. The total number of chicken plants with permission to sell to China is now 46, ABPA said.

"Brazil is the main chicken supplier to China, and the country must now expand its pork sales (there)," Turra said.

(Reporting by Ana Mano and Roberto Samora; Writing by Jamie McGeever; Editing by Louise Heavens and Jan Harvey)

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