Return of U.S. Pork Still Unclear, New Measures to Combat ASF

Last week several Russia media outlets were reporting that imports of ractopamine residue-free U.S. pork would resume on March 10. It is important to note, however, that Russia’s Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance Service (VPSS) has not formally communicated to USDA that it is prepared to reopen the market to imports of U.S. pork. So while VPSS’s comments to the Russian media were somewhat encouraging, reports that exports were set to resume were very premature.

This week VPSS issued a news release stating that its plans to resume pork imports from the United States are now on hold until details surrounding approval of cold storage facilities can be worked out. Because U.S.-Russia tensions heightened this week over events in Ukraine, some media outlets were quick to draw a connection between these issues. But in fact, VPSS officials have specifically stated that the delay in reopening the market is not related to the situation in Ukraine. USMEF will provide further updates on this issue as more details become available. Exporters who have questions regarding the Russian market should contact Thad Lively at or by calling 303-623-6328.

Meanwhile, many questions continue to surround Russia’s pork supply situation. Imports from the European Union are still suspended due to recent findings of African Swine Fever (ASF) in Lithuania and Poland, and the inability of officials from the EU and Russia to agree on an ASF regionalization plan. While pork imports from some regions of Ukraine were already ineligible due to ASF, this week Russia suspended all imports from Ukraine on the contention that political instability would prevent Ukrainian officials from ensuring the safety of pork products. Imports from Canada and Brazil are also restricted, though Russia relisted a major Brazilian processing facility this week and is now accepting pork from six Brazilian suppliers.

While Russia’s domestic pork production has managed to grow in recent years, expansion has suffered significant setbacks due to ASF. To combat the disease, Russia is now taking measures to curb backyard production of pigs – which currently accounts for nearly 30 percent of all pork produced in Russia. Russian regulators are pursuing legislation that would require small, backyard farms to follow the same biosecurity measures as larger production facilities, and such restrictions would likely put many of these small operations out of business. The Customs Union that includes Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan is also proposing to adopt regulations that would prohibit slaughter of pigs outside of licensed slaughter facilities. If enacted, this regulation would also force many backyard producers out of the market.

While these measures face significant opposition from many rural residents who depend on backyard production, the rapid spread of ASF is forcing the Russian government to make unpopular decisions. While curbing backyard production will further tighten Russia’s pork supplies in the short run, regulators may view it as a necessary step in slowing the spread of ASF and enhancing the long-term viability of Russia’s pork industry.