* Marks first small step toward Russia lifting import ban
* Ban not affecting Brazil meat exports to Russia overall
BRASILIA, March 26 (Reuters) - Russia has approved imports of poultry from two processing plants in Brazil, in a first concrete step towards lifting a ban on meat from three southern Brazilian states, Brazil’s agriculture ministry said on Tuesday.
The two plants are located in Parana state, whose poultry, pork and beef Russia banned in mid-2011, as well as meats from Mato Grosso do Sul and Rio Grande do Sul states. Russia said plants in these states failed to meet its sanitary requirements.
Russia agreed in principle last November to lift the ban but would do so on an individual plant-by-plant basis requiring meat processors to provide detailed documentation on operations and standards at their plants.
Brazil’s agriculture ministry said in a statement that the Russian veterinary regulator, Rosselkhoznadzor, was now listing the two poultry plants as approved sources of imports on its web site.
During an official visit to Brazil by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in February, both countries agreed to speed up the work of their sanitary authorities in order to end the import restrictions.
Brazil’s major meat processing companies, which include JBS , Marfrig and Brazil Foods, have been able to continue supplying the Russian market through their units located outside the three states subject to the ban. (Reporting by Peter Murphy; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)