MINSK Aug 20 Belarus, aiming to boost food exports to neighbouring Russia, has cancelled a ban on live cattle from the European Union, Yuri Pivovarchuk, the head of veterinary surveillance at Belarussian agriculture ministry, said.
Minsk said the cancellation of the ban was not caused by its plans to increase exports to Russia, which restricted meat, dairy and some other products worth about $9 billion from EU, the United States, Norway, Canada and Australia in early August in retaliation for sanctions over the Ukraine crisis.
Belarus said the cattle ban, imposed in 2012-2013, was cancelled due to reduced concern over Schmallenberg virus, which infected many sheep and cows in some EU countries in 2011.
"On the basis of a letter from the World Organisation for Animal Health ... we concluded this virus does not pose a threat to animals and their offspring now," Pivovarchuk told Reuters.
Belarus plans to increase food supplies to Russia by 15 to 40 percent this year, it has said. Exports of meat and meat products to Russia were worth $1.35 billion in January to May.
Belarus now accepts live cattle from Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, France, United Kingdom, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain, Austria, Denmark, Croatia, Latvia, Hungary, Poland and Lithuania, Pivovarchuk added.
On Aug. 7, Russia banned all meat, fish, dairy, fruit and vegetable imports from the United States, the EU, Norway, Canada, and Australia for one year.
Russia imported $17.2 billion of food last year from countries covered by the ban, of which $9.2 billion was in the affected categories, the International Trade Centre, a joint venture of the United Nations and World Trade Organization, says.
Moscow has said it will allow imports from Belarus and Kazakhstan of food processed from Western raw materials as it seeks to cap domestic food price increases. (Reporting by Andrei Makhovsky; Writing by Polina Devitt, editing by David Evans)