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Update on Russia’s Import Ban

As noted in our Aug. 8 edition, Russia recently imposed a ban on the import of many agricultural products from countries that have imposed economic sanctions on Russia as a result of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. The list of affected countries includes the United States, Canada, Australia, Norway and the 28 members of the European Union.

While U.S. pork and beef are included in the ban, USMEF continues to gather specific details that may be important to the U.S. meat industry. For example, specific items not included on the list of banned products attached to the Russian government’s decree include pork offal and pork fat. It may be possible to resume exports of these products, but this would require revisions to the FSIS Export Library, which no longer allows for certification of any red meat exports to Russia. (Pork stomachs, intestines, casings and prepared/preserved pork products also were not included in the import ban, but these items were already ineligible for Russia even before it took effect.)

Russian news outlets also reported this week that Russia will allow imports of processed foods from Belarus and Kazakhstan (which are part of a Customs Union with Russia), even if they contain raw materials that are included on Russia’s list of banned products from the countries listed above. The actual banned (unprocessed) products, however, will not be allowed to pass through Belarus and Kazakhstan to Russia. Belarus and Kazakhstan adopted Russia’s ban on EU pork back in January, so European pork remains locked out of the region.

With its options for sourcing imported pork further narrowed by the import ban, Russia’s Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance Service (VPSS) has approved imports from two pork plants in China. Notification of these plants’ eligibility to export to Russia were posted earlier this week on this VPSS Web page.

USMEF also learned this week that Russia has reached an agreement with Argentina to begin supplying beef under a high-quality beef definition. As part of its WTO accession in August 2012, Russia agreed to allow unlimited volumes of high-quality beef (meeting country-specific definitions) at 15 percent duty. Since Argentina already has a high-quality beef definition for the EU, it is possible that Russia is adopting the EU definition.

Because Argentina is already Russia’s third-largest beef supplier (behind Brazil and Paraguay), this decision is not likely to be a game-changer as far as Russia’s overall beef supply is concerned. Argentina currently shares a frozen beef quota of 407,000 metric tons (mt) with other eligible suppliers, paying a 15 percent duty on in-quota imports. But the high-quality beef definition could potentially allow Argentina to move larger quantities of chilled beef to Russia, as Argentina’s chilled shipments have been confined to an 11,000 mt quota shared by all suppliers other than the EU. Without access to U.S. or Australian beef, Russia had been importing larger volumes of chilled beef from the EU. But with the import ban in place, Russia will now be relying almost entirely on Belarus, Ukraine and South American suppliers.