July 29 (Bloomberg) -- Facing tougher sanctions over Ukraine, Russia said yesterday it may ban imports of chicken from the U.S. and fruit from Europe and is investigating McDonald’s Corp. cheese for safety.
Meanwhile, a Russian lawmaker has drafted legislation that might result in U.S. accounting firms such as Deloitte LLP and KPMG LLP being barred from doing business in his country.
While Russia and the U.S. have long sparred over agricultural trade, the actions fueled speculation they could be retaliatory. The 28-nation European Union and the U.S. plan to impose stiffer sanctions to punish Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government.
"It’s a troubling continuation/expansion of trade as a geopolitical tool," Gary Blumenthal, president of World Perspectives Inc., a Washington-based agricultural consulting firm, said in a phone interview.
Russia’s food safety agency said it may ban imports of U.S. poultry and some European fruit due to contamination of the products, according Bloomberg BNA, citing Russian state media. The food safety agency, known as Rosselkhoznadzor, also said it will examine suppliers of McDonald’s cheese for their use of antibiotics.
Russia was the second-largest market, after Mexico, for U.S. chicken last year, according to the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council. The U.S. exported about $309 million worth of broiler chickens to Russia last year, according to the council.
"This is not a surprise," Mike Cockrell, chief financial officer at Sanderson Farms Inc. of Laurel, Mississippi, said by phone. "It’s not unusual for Russia to find something wrong when they have a political reason to do so."
Officials from McDonald’s, based in Oak Brook, Illinois, didn’t respond to a request for comment.
In a separate development, Russia’s lower house of parliament, or Duma, may consider legislation to target companies in nations that impose sanctions against Russian citizens or businesses, according to Russian lawmaker Evgeny Fedorov.
The proposal would bar audit and consulting firms from nations defined as "country-aggressor" from working in Russia. If enacted, the law would cover Deloitte, KPMG, Ernst & Young LLP, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, Boston Consulting Group Inc. and McKinsey & Co., Fedorov said in a telephone interview today.