SAO PAULO, April 11 (Reuters) - Brazil's total beef exports rose in March despite a food safety scandal that caused many countries to question the quality of its meat products and impose temporary import bans.
Total beef exports, including fresh and processed varieties, reached 125,000 tonnes in March, up 20 percent from February, beef exporters association Abiec said in a statement on Tuesday.
Revenues reached $501 million, up 22 percent from the prior month but down 3 percent from the same month a year ago, according to the statement.
The results suggest the initial success of the Brazilian government's campaign to reassure buyers of the quality of the country's meat in the wake of a police bribery probe that accused sanitation inspectors and companies of conspiring to sell rancid products, falsifying export documents or failing to inspect meat-packing plants.
"The results in March show the resilience of the Brazilian beef industry," said Antônio Camardelli, Abiec president. The investigation "did not reduce average export volumes as many destination countries quickly suspended their bans," he said.
The government said exports should return to normal levels between April and May as the country's efforts to reverse import bans from key clients quickly bear fruit.
To be sure, total beef export volumes were down 11 percent at 140,000 tonnes in March from the same month a year ago, Abiec said, citing trade ministry data.
As the scandal fades, Abiec said it will focus on expanding the presence of Brazilian beef products "on strategic markets and negotiate to open up new ones," Camardelli said.
Currently Brazil's main meat buyers are Hong Kong, China, Russia and the European Union, which imported about half of all the country's beef products last month, Abiec data show.
Brazilian fresh beef exports totaled $403.5 million in March, down 2 percent on an annual basis, while volumes slumped 11.3 percent to 98,200 tonnes, according to the Brazil's trade ministry. (Reporting by Ana Mano; Editing by Bill Rigby)