JBS SA begins at least partially reopening the most idle beef plants in North America and Australia after a cyber attack forced the world’s largest meat producer to cease operations.
The Brazilian food giant said late Tuesday that it had made “significant progress” in resolving the attack and that the “vast majority” of its plants would be operational by Wednesday. A second move at its plant in Greeley, Colorado, one of the largest beef plants in the U.S., was for a regular production day, while plants in Texas, Nebraska and Wisconsin began to partially resume, Facebook reports said.
By Thursday, a factory in Omaha will resume, while one in Pennsylvania will be back to normal, union leaders said. JBS said its Canadian beef plant in Alberta, one of the largest in the country, has resumed production. According to a spokesperson for the Australasian Worcestice Employment Union in Tasmania, employees of the Longford beef processing plant in Australia are said to be resuming operations.
Sunday’s cyberattack forced JBS to shut down all its beef plants in the United States – which account for nearly a quarter of U.S. supplies – and to delay pork and poultry production. Percussion in Australia has been halted and at least one Canadian plant has been shut down. JBS, which has facilities in 20 countries, also owns Pilgrim’s Pride Corp., the second largest American chicken producer. The extent of the disruptions may never be known, as JBS did not outline its impact.
The attack and the resulting shutdowns have boosted agricultural markets and raised concerns about food security as hackers increasingly target critical infrastructure.
Chicago live futures fell as much as 3.4% from Friday to a five-month low on Tuesday, before recovering by as much as 2.5% on Wednesday. Pork cuts have dropped by 0.6% in Chicago, rising to 2.9% since Friday.
“Our systems are back online and we are saving no resources to combat this threat,” JBS USA CEO Andre Nogueira said in a statement on Tuesday.
Fitch Ratings said on Wednesday that it does not expect any immediate effect on JBS’s credit ratings due to the cyberattacks and considers the future negative consequences of the attack “highly unlikely, provided the company can return to normal operations in the short term.”
Shares of JBS fell 1.1% in Sao Paulo trading, which is less than the 1% increase in Brazil’s Ibovespa standard index.
It is unclear what the impact will be on the meat prices of the latest attack. Retailers do not always like to increase prices for consumers, and according to Michael Nepveux, an economist at the American Farm Bureau Federation, they can try to resist. “How long it lasts will affect to what level consumers start seeing something at the grocery stores,” he said in a telephone interview.
Food buyers fear that the disruptions of the JBS attacks are already challenges in the meat industry if prices are already high.
“It just puts more fuel on fire,” said Anne Hurtado, a buyer at Amigos Meat & Poultry, in Chicago. She fears that her JBS orders for this week will not be shipped on time. ‘We have seen a lot of inflation in the meat industry over the past month. Demand was high, exports were high. ”
The prices of wholesale beef from the New York meat market will rise by as much as 2% from Friday, said Kevin Lindgren, director of merchandise at Baldor Specialty Foods.
“Nothing crazy yet,” Lindgren said, although he expects prices to be 10% higher within a week. “It will gradually get higher as the pressure comes.”
The JBS attack puts America’s system for smearing cheap meat back in the spotlight.
The sector is dominated by a handful of titans – Tyson Foods Inc., JBS and Cargill Inc. – which controls about two-thirds of America’s beef. The decline of even a few plants could disrupt the stock, as seen last year when Covid-19 diaper plants broke out and caused meat shortages across the country. The industry is so concentrated that the JBS plants are lazy.
“Attacks like these highlight the vulnerability of our country’s food supply chain, and it underscores the importance of diversifying the country’s meat processing capacity,” said U.S. Senator John Thune of South Dakota, the Senate’s second most powerful Republican.
The JBS attack comes three weeks after Colonial Pipeline Co., the largest U.S. gas pipeline, targeted a ransom attack attributed to a group called DarkSide. Experts said there was evidence linking the group to Russia. It follows a series of devastating hacks against US government agencies, businesses and health institutions, which have broken the blame on Russia or in Russia in a difficult time in relations between the countries.
According to the people familiar with the campaign, a notorious burglary group linked by Russia is behind the JBS attack. They were not authorized to speak in public about this. The cyber gang has the name REvil or Sodinokibi.
Russia has no information about the cyber attack, but is in diplomatic contact with the US government, according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. Issues over internet crime will be on the agenda during a June 16 summit between Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin, he said.
There have been more than 40 attacks on publicly reported ransomware attacks on food businesses since May 2020, said Allan Liska, senior security architect at the cyber-recording firm Recorded Future.
“It’s scary to see the number of critical hacks and cyberattacks coming into the U.S. and critical infrastructure,” Texas Republican Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas told David Westin in a TV interview, adding that business and government must cooperate to defend against such attacks. “We need to think through our entire supply chain in every critical part of our economy and identify where those cyber weaknesses may be.”