Ractopamine Issue Still Percolating With Russia

April 18, 2013 11:00 AM

via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.

Country moves to trim Canadian access; eyes potential shift for U.S.

NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.

The issue of ractopamine relative to meat shipments to Russia continues to be an issue in U.S. and Canadian meat trade.

Russia earlier this week limited the number of plants in Canada that they will accept meat imports from, trimming the number to 18 from a prior 60 that had previously been approved. The updated Russian list of approved Canadian facilities includes 14 pork processing plants, three beef processing plants and one plant that processes both animals. Some press reports signaled there are 19 Canadian facilities (15 for pork) that would be approved under the new rules.

Meanwhile, as for the U.S. situation, Rosselkhoznadzor chief Sergey Dankvert said he now has had correspondence from the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) on the topic. FSIS has confirmed that ractopamine is not used by U.S. turkey producers and has offered to hold a video conference on pork and beef issues.

The Russians may be coming. According to reports, the two sides are discussing a potential visit to US slaughter facilities by Russian inspectors starting May 13. Those visits would last two weeks, according to a statement from Dankvert, but he indicated that the visits may not result in a resumption of US meat exports. Dankvert labled the US actions a "positive development." However, he also noted that approval of the inspection timing would also have to be given by Belarus and Kazakhstan, the two countries along with Russia that formed a Customs Union.

That approval, Dankvert indicated, could take up to two months.

Comments: The lingering issue will continue to linger – likely for as long as Russia wants it too. That is the sad history of similar trade-related issues with the country. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) recently wondered aloud whether the United States should file a WTO case against Russia. That's an easy decision – yes.

Note also what the Russian official indicated about two other countries' on this matter – Belarus and Kazakhstan. That is likely another indication we are far from the end zone on this topic.

As for USDA, I really want to see the letter FSIS sent that apparently made the Russians so happy – other than wanting to schedule another two-week trip to the United States where history shows it's just not all work for them.

Russia has consistently (for them) said they want the U.S. Government to certify meat shipments are ractopamine free. But USDA has resisted that since regulations are already in place from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regarding its use in feed, and the United Nations (Codex) food safety body approves its use. For this reason, the US government has not implemented any program to certify exports are ractopamine-free.

But the European European gave Russia, China and other countries cover when they refused to go along with the Codex ruling. Why be in Codex if you are not going to follow its rules?

I was asked this week at a pork industry event in Des Moines, Iowa, whether the industry should still press this issue. Absolutely, I stated, adding that the industry should be more aggressive than the recent past on this important trade topic. But I told the industry gathering that Russia will only give on this issue when they need meat imports. And, sadly, if it is not ractopamine, Russia has an arsenal of items they can bring up to stymie imports and protect their own industries.

NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.



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