* Move comes a week before Winter Olympics in Russia
* Russia started to block EU pork imports few days ago (Adds details, context)
MOSCOW, Jan 31 (Reuters) - 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 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, the head of Russia’s veterinary and phytosanitary service (VPSS), told Interfax.
Pork imports may resume by the end of February, he added.
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.
Ractopamine is a growth stimulant used to make meat leaner and which 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 to block imports of EU pork in response to an outbreak of African Swine Fever in Lithuania. The European Union on Friday described Russia’s move as a “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 $0.5 billion. (Reporting by Polina Devitt; Editing by Alissa de Carbonnel and Jane Baird)