December 4, 2019 / 2:36 PM / 6 days ago

UPDATE 2-Russia restricts beef imports from 7 plants in Argentina and Paraguay

(Adds Argentina and Paraguay export data)

MOSCOW/BUENOS AIRES/ASUNCION, Dec 4 (Reuters) - Russia’s agriculture safety watchdog will impose restrictions on beef supplies to Russia from five plants in Argentina and two plants in Paraguay starting Dec. 18, it said on Wednesday, warning that it could widen these restrictions.

Rosselkhoznadzor said in a statement it found ractopamine in some shipments, a feed additive that is banned in Russia. Its officials will hold talks with their counterparts from Argentina and Paraguay on Dec. 6.

“The service also does not rule out that a decision may be made to impose restrictions on imports of beef and cattle meat products from all enterprises of these countries,” it said in the statement.

Ractopamine allows livestock to grow at a faster rate while consuming less feed. It is banned in countries including Russia and the European Union.

The value of Paraguayan beef exports to Russia was $264.6 million from January through November, according to Paraguay’s health service. Official Argentine data show the country sent $46.9 million worth of beef to Russia from January through October.

The five to-be-restricted plants in Argentina include those owned by Azul Natural Beef S.A., Frigorifico General Pico S.A., Frigorifico H.V. S.A., Matadero y Frigorifico EL Mercedino S.A. and Rafaela Alimentos, while the two in Paraguay are Frigorifico Norte S.A. and Tripera Paraguaya S.A.

A source, who asked not to be named, at Argentina’s SENASA health inspection service confirmed the suspension of the five plants, declining to give further details.

The vice president of Paraguay’s CPC meat industry chamber, Juan Carlos Pettengill, said it had become more difficult to fulfil the requirements of the Russian health service.

“It is common for these questions to happen,” he said. “What is striking to us is that it is increasingly difficult for us to demonstrate that health protocol problems have been resolved, and to be able to return to the Russian market. Communication is now not so fluid,” he explained to Reuters.

The Russian watchdog agency said last week it had removed temporary restrictions on beef supplies to Russia from two plants in Brazil. (Reporting by Polina Devitt; Additional reporting by Maximilian Heath and Hugh Bronstein in Buenos Aires and Daniela Desantis in Asuncion; editing by Louise Heavens, David Gregorio and Jonathan Oatis)

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