* Russia veterinary body to ban U.S. beef, pork and turkey
* Russia cites use of growth stimulant ractopamine
* US says actions appear inconsistent with WTO commitments
By Melissa Akin
MOSCOW, Feb 8 Russia's move to ban U.S. meat
imports worth over $500 million each year, over a feed additive,
will help domestic producers withstand an influx of cheap meat
after Russia joined the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Western food producers believe protectionism, rather than
concern about additives, is its primary purpose.
The influx has driven down pork prices in particular and
threatens hundreds of millions of dollars of investment in
modern pig farms to supply Russian consumers, who are eating
more meat as oil-fuelled government spending drives up incomes.
Russia's Veterinary and Phyto-Sanitary Surveillance Service
(VPSS), Rosselkhoznadzor in Russian, has said it will ban
imports of U.S. beef, pork and turkey from this month because
U.S. producers failed to agree to demands that their exports be
certified free of a feed additive, ractopamine.
"Import is being restrained by the actions of
Rosselkhoznadzor, and that is a stimulating factor for domestic
production," Vladimir Labinov, the head of the livestock
department of the Agriculture Ministry, said this week.
The United States made its opposition clear.
"These actions threaten to undermine our bilateral trade
relationship," Andrea Mead, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Trade
Representative's office, said last week.
"They are not consistent with international standards and
appear to be inconsistent with Russia's WTO commitments."
Rosselkhoznadzor said U.S. producers had ample time to
comply after warnings were issued early last year, well before
Russia joined the WTO, over use of ractopamine, a growth
stimulant used to produce leaner meat.
Brazilian and Canadian producers have promised to comply.
Some Russian officials say their country could have made
more of the issue of the stimulant.
"We put ourselves at a technical disadvantage,"
Rosselkhoznadzor chief Sergei Dankvert told a meeting chaired by
Agriculture Minister Nikolai Fyodorov. "We did not say anything,
even though we knew about this ractopamine."
The United Nations Codex Alimentarius group has ruled
ractopamine in meat was not harmful to human health at low
levels, but some countries, such as China, still ban it.
A Western food industry source said the ractopamine ban was
simple protectionism for domestic producers.
"It is part of the protectionist measures they are taking
against all imports," the source said, adding the threat to bar
other meats as well as pork was done for the sake of
"If you are going to take a decision on ractopamine, you
have to be consistent."
It is not the first time Rosselkhoznadzor has faced
accusations of protectionism.
The European Union complained openly of a "surge in
protectionist measures" and lack of commitment to global trade
rules last year after Russia banned imports of live animals from
the bloc before its formal entry to the WTO.
Protective tariffs on pork in particular were one of the
final barriers to Russian entry to the WTO.
Producers' lobbies say their interests were sacrificed on a
final drive by Vladimir Putin's government to join the trade
body after nearly two decades of on-off talks.
Under Russia's agreements, pork could be imported duty free
above quota after Russia officially joined the WTO in August
Those imports of pork nearly doubled from the same period of
2011 in the final four months of 2012, said Sergei Yushin,
executive director of Russia's National Meat Association.
"I believe this has no impact on the market. The share of
American pork in total imports is only 12 percent and importers
have the right to use their tariff quota to buy pork from any
other country," Yushin said.
"It cannot be viewed as an effective means of protecting
Russian pork producers. Russia has made concessions on the pork
market and I think it will have to negotiate to amend its
For producers in Russia, concessions on pork imports
contrasted with the Kremlin's call for increased national
self-sufficiency in meat as part of its 2010 food security
doctrine, which says Russia should produce 85 percent of its own
At the same time, imports of cheap pork have helped the
government to beat back consumer price inflation, which ran in
double digits for much of the two decades since the end of the
Feed grain prices have soared to record levels just as
Russia's herd has grown.
Since WTO entry, prices for pork in Russia fell from around
94 roubles ($3.11) per kg of carcass weight to as little as 63
roubles in parts of European Russia where most meat is produced.
"In the United States and Europe, prices for meat are rising
and ours are falling. This is not right because grain prices are
rising," Sergei Mikhailov, the chief executive of a major
Russian pork producer and processor, told the meeting.
"It points to fragmentary overproduction of meat."
($1 = 30.2350 Russian roubles)
(Reporting by Melissa Akin; Editing by Anthony Barker)