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BRASILIA, Sept 9 (Reuters) - China granted export licenses to 25 Brazilian meatpacking plants, Brazil's Agriculture Ministry said on Monday, allowing the country's fast-growing protein industry to feed more people in the Asian nation where disease has hurt local supply.
The news drove up the stocks of licensed-plant owners BRF SA , Minerva SA and Marfrig Global Foods SA .
Brazil's Agriculture Ministry said the plants including 17 for beef exports, six for chicken, and one each for pork and donkey meat "can already export immediately."
China is Brazil's largest export market for beef, chicken and pork, with demand surging since last year as an African swine fever outbreak has decimated the Chinese meat industry.
Brazilian pork exports to China soared 48% in the first eight months of the year, according to Brazil government statistics, while beef exports to China are up 17% and chicken exports rose soared 37%.
The greater opening in China comes as Brazil's meatpackers face tougher scrutiny from markets such as Europe over how a boom in cattle ranching has contributed to deforestation and fires in the Amazon rainforest and other sensitive habitats.
Brazil's biggest meatpackers say they monitor their supply chains to avoid buying cattle from illegally deforested land.
Last week, Brazil's principle industry group for meat exporters Abiec joined with other agribusiness associations and nongovernmental organizations to call for measures to protect the Amazon and avoid possible damage to Brazilian businesses.
Brazil meatpackers Minerva and Marfrig said in separate securities filings that they each have two plants authorized to export beef to China.
In a list released by the ministry, a BRF plant in Mato Grosso was authorized to export chicken and pork to China.
Minerva said its two plants are the Rolim de Moura and Palmeiras de Goias units in the states of Rondonia and Goias, respectively. They have a combined capacity of 3,500 head of cattle per day.
Marfrig's two plants are the Tangara de Serra and Varzea Grande units in the state of Mato Grosso.
Marfrig shares rose 7%, the biggest gainer on the Sao Paulo index. Minerva shares jumped 5%, on track for their biggest rise since April.
BRF's shares rose 3% before paring gains to 1.1%. All far outperformed the broader Bovespa index, which was up 0.2% in afternoon trading. (Reporting by Jamie McGeever, Jake Spring and Ana Mano; Editing by Susan Fenton, David Evans and Richard Chang)