(Adds share performance, comment from BTG sales desk)
SAO PAULO, June 23 (Reuters) - Brazil's Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi prepared to travel to the United States on Friday to fight a ban on imports of fresh Brazilian beef, which hit shares of local meatpackers and revived concerns over the image of the world's largest exporter.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's decision on Thursday to impose the ban over safety concerns did not affect the bulk of Brazilian beef imports, which are frozen. But it was a setback for Brazil's recently opened fresh beef trade with the United States and another black eye for the sector after recent scandals.
The USDA first cleared U.S. consumption of fresh Brazilian beef last year and it still represents just 1 percent of the Brazilian industry's exports, according to a note from the sales desk of bank BTG Pactual.
"It's a small share, but the message behind the decision is bad," the bank told clients in a note. "The U.S. waited 17 years to open its market to fresh Brazilian beef and it's suspending imports again a year after opening the market."
Maggi, himself a billionaire soy producer, said corrective measures were already being made. He said Brazil would stick to its target of raising exports to 10 percent of Brazilian beef production in five years, up from 7 percent now.
"We will fight for this market!" the minister said in a message posted to social networks late on Thursday, reiterating his commitment to keeping the U.S. market open to fresh Brazilian beef.
Since March, the USDA has rejected 11 percent of Brazilian fresh beef products, compared to the rejection rate of 1 percent for shipments from the rest of the world. The shipments, totaling about 1.9 million pounds, raised concerns about public health, animal health and sanitation, the USDA said.
The latest setback for Brazilian meatpackers came just three months after a scandal involving alleged bribery of health officials, which briefly shut Brazil's protein exports out of major global markets from China to Europe.
Controlling owners of JBS SA also confessed to widespread bribery of Brazilian politicians, stoking a political crisis and triggering asset sales amid fears of higher financing costs.
Shares of the world's largest meatpacker JBS and local rival Marfrig Global Foods SA both fell about 1 percent in early trading in Sao Paulo.
JBS declined to comment on the matter. Marfrig did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Rival Minerva SA, whose shares were flat in morning trading, said it would ship fresh beef to the U.S. market from Uruguay rather than Brazil, adding that the change would not affect its export volumes. (Reporting by Bruno Federowski and Roberto Samora in Sao Paulo; Additional reporting by Pedro Fonseca in Rio de Janeiro; Writing by Brad Haynes; Editing by Daniel Flynn and Marguerita Choy)