Update on Russia’s Pork, Beef Import Restrictions

With Russia imposing a growing number of pork and beef import restrictions, a recent meeting between Russia’s Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance Service (VPSS) and Russian meat industry representatives drew unusually large attendance. Some highlights from the meeting transcript include:

  • VPSS and the European Commission continue to be in disagreement over African swine fever (ASF) regionalization. VPSS insists that the ASF affected zone should cover not only Poland and Lithuania, but also neighboring countries. The European Commission maintains that its approach to ASF regionalization is objective, and it is still reluctant to discuss the possibility for bilateral negotiations between the Customs Union (Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan) and individual EU member states – something that was suggested by VPSS as a possible solution to the EU pork embargo.
  • The suspension of imports from the EU has already contributed to a 7 to 15 percent drop in sausage production and a 7 percent price increase for sausages. The price spike for raw materials could lead to closure of up to 10 percent of all meat processing facilities, according to Russia’s National Union of Meat Processors. Given the lack of progress with EU, VPSS is considering alternative suppliers. This includes negotiations regarding pork from China and buffalo meat from India.
  • The spread of PEDV in the U.S. and Canada was also discussed, with VPSS emphasizing the need to ensure that PEDV does not spread into Russia. (To date, Russia has not imposed any PEDV-related restrictions on U.S. or Canadian pork.)

Meanwhile the European Commission has published a list of countries that have imposed ASF-related restrictions on pork exports from Lithuania and/or Poland. EU officials addressed this issue with several trading partners this week in conjunction with a meeting of the WTO Committee on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures in Geneva.

With regard to U.S.-Russia pork trade, four cold storage facilities were added this week to the eligible pork plant list for Russia with an effective date of March 20, 2014. The previous week, two U.S. pork plants were reinstated to the eligible plant list. The updated list is available online.

On the beef side, VPSS announced that it will suspend chilled beef imports from Australia effective March 31, following further findings of the growth promotant trenbolone. VPSS is basing this decision on the premise that frozen beef can be held and tested for trenbolone, but this is impractical for chilled beef. However, VPSS suggests that it might also revisit its policy on frozen beef imports from Australia.

With chilled beef no longer eligible from the United States or Australia, Russia’s hotel, restaurant and institutional (HRI) sector is facing severe supply restrictions. Chilled beef from Uruguay and Argentina is eligible, but supplies are currently tight and expensive. Canada has very little beef that complies with Russia’s ractopamine-free requirements. Chilled beef from the EU is eligible for Russia, but buyers from the HRI sector may find it difficult to find cuts that meet their clients’ needs.