* Move comes week before Winter Olympics in Russia
* Russia started blocking EU pork imports a few days ago
* Word of possible Russian resumption helped boost U.S hog
By Polina Devitt and Theopolis Waters
MOSCOW/CHICAGO, Jan 31 Russia plans to end a ban
on imports of some U.S. meat starting with turkey in
mid-February and pork by March, the Interfax news agency
reported, citing its veterinary regulator.
Russia banned most meat imports from the United States,
Canada and Mexico early last year due to concerns about the use
of the feed additive ractopamine.
The regulator's comments came after months of speculation
among U.S. meat producers and market participants that Moscow
could remove the ban before Russian ports freeze in the winter
and its Black Sea resort city of Sochi hosts the Winter
Olympics, which are scheduled to start on Feb. 7.
"We see a real possibility to resume turkey meat trade in
February, most likely in the middle (of the month) or in the
second half," Sergei Dankvert, head of Russia's veterinary and
phytosanitary service (VPSS), told Interfax.
Pork imports may resume by the end of February, he said.
VPSS could not be reached for additional comments.
Previously it planned to hold an inspection in February or March
of several U.S. turkey plants that said they do not use
Ractopamine is a growth stimulant used to make meat leaner.
It is banned in some countries because of concerns it could
remain in the meat and cause health problems, despite scientific
evidence showing it is safe.
The VPSS comments came days after Russia started blocking
imports of EU pork in response to an outbreak of African Swine
Fever in Lithuania. The European Union on Friday described
Russia's action as "disproportionate".
Russia imported 1.0 million tonnes of red meat worth $4
billion from countries outside the Commonwealth of Independent
States in the first 11 months of 2013, according to official
customs data. Poultry imports reached 356,100 million tonnes at
Hog futures at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange rose more
than 1 percent on Friday, partly driven by the news of the
potential resumption of U.S. pork to Russian ports.
CME hog futures for April delivery closed 1.175
cents per lb higher, or 1.26 percent, to 94.800 cents.
The June contract settled at 104.825 cents, 1.475
cents higher, or 1.43 percent, after hitting its highest level
ever for the contract at 104.975 cents in electronic trading.
"Pork exports could come in the general time frame that we
expect to see the larger impact from the Porcine Epidemic
Diarrhea virus (PEDv) breakout," said independent livestock
futures trader Dan Norcini.
PEDv was first discovered in April 2013 in the United
States, the world's largest pork exporter, and has spread to 23
states and Canada. The disease, transmitted orally and through
pig feces, is lethal for baby pigs but does not affect humans.
U.S. hog futures traders are betting that the greatest
impact from the disease in terms of reduced pork production will
occur this summer.
Tyson Foods Inc, the country's largest meat
processor, said on Friday it expected pork supplies to drop 2
percent to 4 percent this fiscal year, while raising U.S. price
for pork at wholesale, as the deadly pig virus spreads through
the U.S. hog belt.
Jim Robb, director of the Denver-based Livestock Marketing
Information Center said, "Russia's import policies are often
driven by political dimensions."
He said Russia erects import barriers to U.S. meat when they
feel they have enough product and removes them when needed,
which is partly driven by politics.
"They don't necessarily abide by international standards,"