* Russia requires testing for ractopamine
* USMEF says pork, beef exports to Russia could stop
* Russia move comes after US Senate passes trade bill
* Cattle, hog futures down
* USDA urges Russia to postpone requirement
By Theopolis Waters and K.T. Arasu
CHICAGO, Dec 7 U.S. pork and beef exports to
Russia could halt on Saturday following Moscow's requirement
that the meat be tested and certified free of the feed additive
ractopamine, a move analysts said smacked of political
The measure by Russia - the sixth-largest market for U.S.
beef and pork - comes on the heels of U.S. Senate approval of a
trade bill to punish Russian human rights violators as part of a
broader objective to expand bilateral commerce.
The U.S. Meat Export Federation told its members by email
that since the U.S. Department of Agriculture had no testing and
certification program in place for ractopamine, the Russian
requirement could effectively halt U.S. pork and beef exports to
the country by Saturday.
USMEF, a non-profit trade association, said more than 210
shipping containers of U.S. pork and beef valued at about $20
million were on their way to Russia.
Ractopamine is employed as a feed additive to make meat
leaner, but countries such as China have banned its use. The
United Nations has agreed on acceptable levels of the drug.
Canada moved swiftly to meet Russia's requirement, starting
the testing process on Friday.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has provided meat
processors with testing guidelines and is responsible for
signing certificates to make sure the products meet Russian
standards, said Jacques Pomerleau, executive director of Canada
Pork International, an industry body.
The USDA called on Russia to suspend the requirement
immediately and offered to have further technical discussions
with Moscow on the safety of ractopamine.
"We will continue to reach out to Russia to resolve our
differences, as well as to encourage Russia to implement the
(U.N.) Codex Alimentarius Commission's standards for imported
meat products to help provide greater certainty, in keeping with
their obligation as a World Trade Organization member," USDA
spokesman Matt Herrick said.
"This is an important opportunity for Russia to demonstrate
that it takes these commitments seriously," he said.
Russia joined the WTO in August after a 19-year wait.
Analysts said the Russian move was linked to the Senate's
passage of the trade bill and noted that prices for hogs and
cattle in the United States were under pressure.
"This seems to be in retaliation to the Senate's passage of
the trade bill with Russia ... there is certainly no doubt about
it," Rich Nelson, chief strategist at research and brokerage
company Allendale Inc, said.
He said Russia purchased 1.4 percent of U.S. pork production
and 0.6 percent of beef production, adding that any suspension
of imports from the United States would weigh on cattle and hog
futures at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.
Tyson Foods Inc, a leading U.S. meat company, and
agriculture powerhouse Cargill Inc declined to comment on how a
halt in exports would impact them, but both noted that the U.S.
and Russian governments were in discussions.
"We'd rather not speculate on what a halt in exports would
mean to our business, but are hopeful the USDA and Russian
government are able to resolve this issue quickly," Tyson
spokesman Worth Sparkman said.
Russia's animal and plant health regulator said it would
increase laboratory oversight of pork from three packaging
plants in North America after ractopamine was found in meat
shipped to Russia.
CME February hog futures were 0.900 cent, or 1.1
percent, lower at 83.55 cents per lb at 1:05 p.m. CST (1905
GMT). February live cattle futures fell 0.60 cent, or 0.5
percent, to 130.4 cents per lb.
Tyson shares were down 0.5 percent at $19.59 even as the Dow
Jones industrial average rose 0.5 percent.
In its email, obtained by Reuters, USMEF said: "...This new
requirement effectively means that the Russian market will be
closed to pork and beef exports beginning this Saturday
USMEF spokesman Joe Schuele confirmed the email.
"The deadline is concerning because of an inability to meet
this paperwork requirement," Schuele said.
The email said chief U.S. agricultural trade negotiator Isi
Siddiqui and White House international economic affairs adviser
Michael Froman were expected to travel to Moscow next week to
press the Russian government to postpone the implementation of
Commerce Department data shows the United States has
exported 213.681 million pounds of pork to Russia so far this
year. In 2011, exports to Russia totaled 190.931 million lbs.
Russia imported 121.71 million lbs of U.S. beef and veal
between January and September. Last year, such imports totaled
USMEF data showed that U.S. beef exports to Russia in the
first nine months of 2012 were valued at $203.7 million, while
pork exports totaled about $202.9 million for the same period.
"My first inclination is how much of this is related to
geopolitics and how much of this is the Russians trying to
negotiate political issues through our pocketbooks," said Mike
Zuzolo, president of Global Commodity Analytics.
"Without a doubt, this issue is weighing on both the hogs
and cattle markets. All year long the lower-level dollar and the
strong export pace have helped underpin our situation whenever
domestic demand has weakened," he said.