MOSCOW Jan 18 U.S. agriculture and trade
officials begin two days of talks in Moscow on Tuesday in an
attempt to keep Russia open to poultry supplies worth about $800
million in 2008. [ID:nN15203392] [ID:nLDE60E0XC]
WHAT IS THE PROBLEM?
Russia banned imports of U.S. poultry from Jan. 1. Imports
cleared by customs before Jan. 19 are permitted. [ID:nLDE60D1JG]
Russia cites the use of chlorine as the reason for the ban.
Consumer protection watchdog Rospotrebnadzor says the presence
of chlorine in water used to cool poultry results in "the
accumulation of by-products dangerous to human health" in and on
the surface of the meat.
U.S. meat firms routinely use chlorine to kill bacteria that
cause food poisoning. The country says the process is safe.
Russia restricts the use of chlorine in poultry plants to
0.5 parts per million. Jim Sumner, president of the USA Poultry
and Egg Export Council, said this was 10 times lower than the
standard chlorine content in U.S. municipal drinking water.
WHAT OTHER PRODUCTS ARE AFFECTED?
The poultry ban follows a separate round of restrictions on
U.S. pork. Another Russian body, animal and plant health
watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor, has banned pork from all but six U.S.
processing plants for excessive antibiotic residues.
Beef could also be affected. Russia's veterinary service has
asked the U.S. Agriculture Department by Feb. 1 to reinspect
U.S. beef plants exporting to Russia. [ID:nN15223379]
Russia says suppliers should honour its food safety
regulations and that all bans are on health and safety grounds.
Critics of the bans, including some U.S. officials, say they
could be politically motivated or protectionist in nature.
Russia wants Russia to become self-sufficient in meat and
has invested billions of dollars to spur domestic production.
WHAT IS AT STAKE?
Exports of poultry, pork and beef together earned the United
States more than $1.3 billion in 2008.
Russia bought $801 million worth of chicken from the United
States in 2008, making it the No. 1 U.S. poultry export market.
Moscow allowed Washington to ship 901,400 tonnes of poultry
under a quota set for 2008. It was cut to 750,000 tonnes in 2009
and 600,000 tonnes for 2010. [ID:nLC468862] [ID:nLDE5DK0BA]
Russia also bought $476 million of U.S. pork, ranking it
among the top five buyers, and a further $95 million worth of
beef, making it the 10th-largest export market for U.S. beef.
Russia's various meat bans could affect plants owned by
several traded U.S. companies, including pork industry leader
Smithfield Foods Inc SFD.N, Tyson Foods Inc (TSN.N), Sanderson
Farms (SAFM.O) and Pilgrims Pride PPC.N.
Louise Slaughter, a U.S. lawmaker who has sponsored a bill
to ban the routine use of antibiotics in livestock, said the
Russian pork and poultry bans should be a cue for the United
States to overhaul its meat safety laws. [ID:nN06148689]
WHO IS PARTICIPATING IN THE TALKS?
U.S. Agriculture Department Undersecretary Jim Miller and
Assistant U.S. Trade Representative Jim Murphy will lead a
delegation of more than 10 technical experts to Moscow.
Russia's team will be led by Gennady Onishchenko, head of
the Rospotrebnadzor watchdog.
"We will be discussing the vast scientific evidence
demonstrating the safety of using chlorine as an antimicrobial
for poultry," USTR spokeswoman Nefeterius McPherson said.
The talks are expected to focus on poultry, and not pork.
The pork bans have been administered on a plant-by-plant basis
by another body, Rosselkhoznadzor.
HAS THIS HAPPENED BEFORE?
Moscow periodically removes U.S. meat plants from its
approved export list, citing technical concerns. In 2006, Russia
banned U.S. chicken for several months due to issues related to
veterinary inspection certificates.
Russia cut its poultry quota by 24 percent to 952,000 tonnes
in 2009 [ID:nLL548093]. On the eve of the quota negotiations,
Rospotrebnadzor issued an order banning from Jan. 1, 2009 sales
of poultry washed in excessive volumes of chlorine.
Rosselkhoznadzor then refused to issue import permits for
2009 to U.S. plants which did not provide guarantees they did
not practice excessive chlorine washing. [ID:nL5622292]
After Washington agreed to the quota cuts, the new standards
were postponed to Jan. 1, 2010 and the issue of permits resumed.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN NEXT?
Russia has adopted a tough stance. Prime Minister Vladimir
Putin said on Jan. 14 that Russia would use other sources for
its meat should U.S. supplies fail to comply with its laws.
Possible alternatives include Brazil, the European Union,
Argentina, Canada, Turkey and Thailand, said Andrei Teriokhin,
head of the Russian Poultry Market Operators' Association. But
this would be both expensive and time consuming for Russia.
A prolonged ban could allow domestic firms, such as Russian
market leader Cherkizovo (CHEq.L), to increase market share.
It would also hurt U.S. livestock and poultry producers
already suffering from the worldwide financial crisis, and drive
up domestic meat prices, as products that were previously
exported start appearing on U.S. store shelves.
While analysts do not necessarily expect a breakthrough in
this week's talks, many say Russia's poultry ban is likely to be
short-lived as the market is so large.
Should the two sides reach a compromise on chlorine use,
U.S. poultry supplies could in theory resume immediately.
(Reporting by Robin Paxton, Aleksandras Budrys, Roberta Rampton
and Bob Burgdorfer, writing by Robin Paxton; editing by Sue