Coming off an extremely successful year of red meat export to Russia, U.S. exhibitor interest in Prodexpo 2013 was very high. Although the business climate has been dampened by Russia’s new certification requirements related to ractopamine, this did not dissuade prospective buyers from meeting with U.S. exporters.
“Russian importers are every bit as frustrated as we are over this trade impasse,” said Thad Lively, USMEF senior vice president for trade access, who was in attendance at Prodexpo. “This situation draws a lot of media attention as a trade conflict between the governments of Russia and the United States. But what this really comes down to is that unnecessary requirements are interfering with the efforts of private buyers to conduct business with U.S.-based suppliers. That side of the issue was very much on display here, especially with trade being effectively suspended at a time when Russians’ demand for U.S. meat has never been stronger.”
U.S. beef exports to Russia reached new heights in 2012, totaling 80,408 metric tons valued at $307 million – increases of 10 percent and 20 percent, respectively, over 2011. Pork exports were also very strong, totaling 98,830 metric tons (+33 percent from 2011) valued at $281.7 million (+22 percent). (All totals include both muscle cuts and variety meat.) But exports slowed dramatically beginning in early December when new testing and verification requirements were first announced, and Russia effectively closed the market to chilled beef and pork on Feb. 4 and to all U.S. beef and pork on Feb. 11. USMEF remains hopeful that a way can be found to resume beef and pork exports to Russia. For the foreseeable future, however this will likely require the U.S. and Russian governments to agree on a program under which USDA will certify beta agonist residue-free exports.