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Russia institutes ractopamine ban

Russia institutes ractopamine ban
- Russia requiring certificate with meat imports. - International standards allow ractopamine use. - U.S. meat group questions Russia'

RUSSIA'S decision to start enforcing its ban on pork and beef imports produced using ractopamine could cost the U.S. and Canadian livestock industries almost $1 billion unless Russian authorities reverse course or the industries quickly adapt to the new regime.

After months of warnings, Russia's plant and health regulator, Rosselkhoznadzor, announced the policy shift Dec. 7, saying it had "officially informed the veterinary services (officials) of main meat and meat product exporters who use ractopamine as an animal growth stimulator that, from now on, the imported controlled products must be accompanied with a document issued by the exporting country that confirms that the products were manufactured without using ractopamine.

"If there is no such document, the access of each imported consignment to the Russian market is possible only after laboratory analysis for ractopamine detection has been conducted," the Russian plant and health regulator added. "Such a system will be in place during the transition period, which will be identified additionally. During this period, the veterinary services of exporting countries must establish systems of laboratory checks for the presence of ractopamine in imported products and support each product consignment meant for the Russian market and other (former Soviet Union) countries with a laboratory act that testifies the absence of ractopamine in it."

The transition period reportedly is up at the end of next January.

Russia's ractopamine decision could prove to be a costly policy shift for the pork and beef industries in the U.S. and Canada.

Industry and governments were scrambling in the days following Russia's announcement.

The Obama Administration called on Russia to respect the World Trade Organization process and change course. Canada's Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz urged a delay and a rethink by Russia, adding that ractopamine is safely used.

The U.S. and Canadian governments appear unable, at least in the near term, to offer the type of certification Russia's Rosselkhoznadzor demands. That means, at least for now, that exporters will be on their own.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) "has not changed its testing procedures as a result of Russia's decision. If industry wishes to export to Russia, it will be responsible (for having) each shipment tested for ractopamine by an accredited laboratory," a CFIA official told Feedstuffs.

Ractopamine is a beta-agonist added to feed in pork, beef and turkey production to make meat leaner. The U.N. Codex Alimentarius Commission agreed in July to set maximum residue standards for the drug. Around 25 countries have approved the use of ractopamine. Many, such as China and the European Union, have not.

Russian officials claim that the drug poses an unnecessary health risk.

Dr. Alexey Alexeenko from the Russian Federal Veterinary Service told the local press, "It has been found that ractopamine may develop pathologies of metabolic activity in animals. It also may have a bad influence on the heart/vascular system, the kidneys and the liver."

Sales into Russia's market are important for the North American livestock industry.

The U.S. Meat Export Federation said from January to September 2012, beef exports to Russia were worth $203.7 million, and pork exports totaled $202.9 million. That's equivalent to 121.7 million lb. of beef, up 5% from the year before, and 213.7 million lb. of pork, up a whopping 41%, according to U.S. Department of Commerce data.

Canada exported $358.5 million (Canadian) worth of pork and $12.9 million worth of beef to Russia in the January to September period (Table), Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada told Feedstuffs last Wednesday.

Furthermore, Brazil sold Russia 212,456 metric tons of beef from January to September, according to ABIEC. (Brazil said Russia's warnings prompted it to move pre-emptively in November by temporarily banning the use of ractopamine in livestock until it puts in place a product segregation system.)

For all three countries, the red meat trade appeared to have a growing future in Russia before this policy shift.

Much of the livestock industry was reluctant to comment on Russia's stance, preferring to leave it up to government-to-government negotiations.

The U.S. Meat Export Federation said, "We support calls by U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and (Agriculture) Secretary Tom Vilsack for Russia to suspend these new measures and restore market access for U.S. beef and pork products. ... We are confident that a science-based solution to the disagreement over testing and certification can be found quickly so that exports of U.S. beef and pork to Russia can resume in the near future."

The U.S. and Canadian governments are looking to Russia to lift its import ban.

"The U.S. is very concerned that Russia has taken these actions, which appear to be inconsistent with its obligations as a member of WTO. The U.S. calls on Russia to suspend these new measures and restore market access for U.S. beef and pork products," Vilsack and Kirk said in a Dec. 8 statement.

They added that "Russia committed, as part of its WTO accession package, to ensure that it adhered rigorously to WTO requirements and that it would use international standards unless it had a risk assessment to justify use of a more stringent standard. Especially in light of its commitment to use international standards, this is an important opportunity for Russia to demonstrate that it takes its WTO commitments seriously."

Ritz plus Canada's trade minister and chief veterinarian each have written to their Russian counterparts on the ractopamine issue. Canada has asked Russia to delay implementation until February. "We are awaiting their response," CFIA told Feedstuffs.

Ritz told Feedstuffs that the government "will continue to stand up for (Canada's) livestock sector, especially when it comes to maintaining fair, science-based trade. Russia's decision is inconsistent with internationally recognized science and the Codex Alimentarius Commission's recent establishment of a maximum residue limit for the use of ractopamine.

"We have asked Russia for a delay in the implementation of this decision to allow for a thorough and science-based discussion between Canadian and Russian officials," Ritz added.


Canada's exports of beef, veal and pork to Russia (million $, Canadian)













Beef and veal products






Pork products






Source: Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada, Dec. 12.


Volume:84 Issue:52

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