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Moscow reluctant to import US meat

February 12, 2013, 14:17 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila

A new trade war is on between Russia and the United States. Moscow has banned the import of US meat, because, it says, the use of growth stimulators is to blame. No politics involved, it adds. Washington argues it is not a health hazard and complains that Russian veterinarians are in the habit of finding faults.

The embargo on the import of Russian meat products into Russia was introduced in two phases. On February 4 the Russian market was closed to chilled meat from the United States and Germany. And on February 11, to frozen meat and turkey from the United States due to the presence of a banned growth stimulator, ractopamine. Finished meat and dairy products stopped to be imported from three German lands – Bavaria, Lower Saxony and North Rhein-Westphalia.

The Americans argue that such restrictions run counter to the spirit of the World Trade Organization. At the same time they voice no such complaints against Brussels, although the European Union has also banned ractopamine-containing products from the European Union countries.

As for the Germans, they do not add growth stimulators to animal feed. But Rosselkhoznadzor does not like the lack of coordination between the veterinarians in Germany’s lands and the federal government. As a result, local enterprises are unable to meet the Russian technical requirements for milk.

Russia will lift the ban on the import of meat from the United States only if the United States stops selling products made with the use of growth stimulators, the head of the Rospotrebnadzor watchdog, Gennady Onishchenko, said.

“Supplies will be possible only if they come from the farms that do not use this stimulator,” said Russia’s chief sanitary doctor. He speculated that the full ban on the import of meat and meat products from the United States due to ractopamine will apparently last a while.

Ractopamine is an additive to animal feed used in livestock farming stimulating muscle growth. It is prohibited in 160 countries, including the European Union. Ractopamine is contained in livestock farming products from the United States, Canada, Mexico and Brazil.

Its effects on the human body have not been fully studied yet. It is known that large amounts of ractopamine may upset the heart rhythm (cause tachycardia), while its small amounts, if taken regularly, lead to obesity.

Russia back on November 23, 2012 notified the US Department of Agriculture of the need to test products exported to Russia for the presence of ractopamine and to provide certificates confirming its absence. A similar demand has been dispatched to Brazil, Mexico and Canada. Brazil and Mexico (20 percent and 7 percent of the whole import respectively) partially agreed with Russia’s requirements (they will reduce the amount of export to 12 percent, but will be providing only clean products). The Canadians (18 percent of the market of frozen pork) have notified Moscow they will comply with Russia’s requirements. The United States has dismissed them and warned it would complain to the WTO.

As US trade representative Ron Kirk and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack have said, the United States is very upset over Russia’s ban on the import of American meat, which, they claim, matches the world’s highest safety standards.

The chief of the agriculture watchdog Sergei Dankvert has said in this connection his agency is unable to carry out permanent and total monitoring of all meat from the United States and Canada, using for this its laboratories, specialists and government money.

“Apart from these two countries there are about one hundred others. Supplies from them are to be monitored, too, and not only for the presence of ractopamine,” he said.

In the meantime, experts say that the new restrictions will not influence the Russian market of meat, the head of the executive of the National Meat Association, Sergei Yushin, has told Rossiiskaya Gazeta in an interview. He said the United States accounted for a tiny 2.8 of chilled beef Russia imported last year, and for 7.7 percent of the imported frozen beef.

Russia does not import chilled pork from the United States at all. As for the import of frozen pork, it is rather significant.

“The United States is not a major exporter of pork to Russia. Its share of the market is about 12 percent. The other major providers – Brazil and Canada – have agreed to Russia’s demands and my go on exporting their products. And we shall import the missing amounts from other countries and from the European Union,” Yushin said.

Also, he remarked that turkey meat is supplied from the United States to Russia in insignificant amounts, so the restriction would not affect the market considerably.

Russia’s Economic Development Ministry came out with a forecast to the effect Russia by 2030 will be prepared to build up the production of meat by 30-40 percent in relation to the current level. The production of pork and poultry by 2030 may grow 1.5-1.6 times. Livestock is expected to increase by 18-20 percent.

The meat row is possibly not over yet, says Money Times magazine. As of April 1 a ban may be imposed on European seed potatoes, because the European Union does not provide the full information about the product or its providers. The United States should brace for more meat bans, too. US-produced chickens are being scrutinized for the presence of ractopamine.

Besides, the consumer rights supervision watchdog has pointed to a row in Britain and Ireland, where horse meat and pork were discovered in beef products and a probe is underway into the affair.

The consumer rights watchdog Rospotrebnbadzor keeps a close watch on the situation with the aim to prevent the appearance of these products on the Russian market and to enforce consumer rights legislation, the agency said.


MOSCOW, February 12