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Russia Lifts Ban on Eighteen US Pork Plants

by 5m Editor
30 March 2010, at 11:49am

RUSSIA - Eighteen US pork plants will be able to resume shipments to Russia within days after Moscow lifted a ban that had closed the United States’ fifth-largest export market for several months, officials said on Friday.

Russia’s farm produce watchdog is preparing to allow imports from even more US suppliers in the near future, officials from the body said, after Washington agreed its supplies would be free of an antibiotic that violated Moscow’s food safety rules. “I have signed documents lifting restrictions on practically all US suppliers,“ Sergei Dankvert, head of the Rosselkhoznadzor watchdog, told reporters on the sidelines of a conference.

Rosselkhoznadzor spokesman Alexei Alexeyenko later clarified that 18 US enterprises were on the list of companies no longer subject to the ban. He said the documents were signed on Thursday and would take a few days to come into force.

“As soon as this is done, shipments can be renewed in full,“ Mr Alexeyenko said by telephone.

Russia and the United States have been involved in several disputes over meat supplies in recent years, reports The St. Petersburg Times, citing Reuters. Exports to Russia of pork, poultry and beef combined earned the United States more than $1.3 billion in 2008.

Poultry from the United States has been banned in Russia, the biggest US export market, since 19 January due to Moscow’s opposition to a chlorine wash routinely used in US processing plants. Russia has said talks are progressing. The bans on pork were introduced in several stages last year on an individual plant basis. As of December, about 70 per cent of US pork suppliers to Russia had been banned.

Russia’s concerns centered on the presence of the antibiotic oxytetracycline, and Moscow has taken a tough line with Washington on food safety.

Some US officials have said the bans could be politically motivated or linked to Russia’s plans to increase its self-sufficiency in pork and poultry meat.

Mr Alexeyenko said Russia was prepared to widen the list of US suppliers that would no longer be subject to the pork ban, although he declined to say how many plants were still banned.

“This is the start of some very serious work. A decision has been taken in principle and the list can be widened,“ he said. “The American side has given official guarantees of the safety of its products.“

The US Meat Export Federation (USMEF) said on 12 March that Moscow had approved the resumption of imports from 11 US plants. Mr Alexeyenko said these plants were among the 18 on the list approved by Mr Dankvert.

Smithfield Foods Inc, the largest US pork producer, said at the time that Russia had agreed to resume imports from its plant at Tar Heel, North Carolina, the world’s largest pork plant.

Russia was the fifth-largest export market for US pork last year, taking nearly 139,500 metric tons, data from the US Meat Export Federation shows.