(Adds impact of move on Chicago hog futures, analyst and trader comments)
MOSCOW, Feb 27 (Reuters) - Russia plans to resume pork imports from the United States around March 10, Russia’s veterinary and phytosanitary service (VPSS) said on Thursday.
Russia banned most meat imports from the United States early last year due to concerns over the use of the feed additive ractopamine.
“It’s an approximate date,” VPSS spokesman Alexei Alekseenko said. He declined to offer further details.
Ractopamine is a growth stimulant used to make meat leaner. It is banned in some countries because of concerns it could remain in the meat and cause health problems, despite scientific evidence showing it to be safe.
On March 10 Russia plans to allow imports from several companies that have guaranteed they do not use ractopamine, Interfax news agency reported, citing the head of VPSS inspection for global cooperation, Vasily Lavrovskyi.
Previously, Russia planned to resume pork imports from Brazil and the United States in March to compensate for falling supplies from the European Union, which have been limited following an outbreak of African Swine Fever (ASF) in Lithuania in January.
The prospect of resumed U.S. pork exports to Russia helped push Chicago Mercantile Exchange hog futures for April 2014 delivery up nearly 3 percent to a new high of 104.000 cents per lb on Thursday morning.
“I would think it’s driving the market. It means we will have more people needing pork in anticipation of tightening supply,” said James Burns, president of Chicago-based JBS Trading Co.
The tighter supplies he spoke of were a reference to the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv) which is roiling the U.S. pork industry. The disease, which is fatal to baby pigs, is expected to reduce U.S. hog numbers beginning this spring and through the remainder of the year.
There is no official tally of PEDv pig deaths. But analysts and traders have estimated that up to 4 million pigs may have succumbed to the disease, which does not affect humans and is not a food safety risk.
Rich Nelson, chief strategist with Allendale Inc in McHenry, Illinois, is guardedly optimistic about the return of U.S. pork to Russian ports.
“I am not as excited about the impact on April CME hog futures unless Russia allows in a significant amount of pork right out of the gate,” he said.
“I’m sure the market’s going to trade it as an April issue. I’d rather suggest it will have more impact in May or June of this year.”
Reporting by Polina Devitt in Moscow; additional reporting by Theopolis Waters in Chicago; editing by Jason Neely and Matthew Lewis