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Moscow's new rules threaten US chicken exports

Russia's poultry meat sector hopes that talks this week will find a compromise over Moscow's new food safety rules that threaten to halt the current large imports of US chicken because it is treated with chlorine, reports The Moscow Times.

However, according to Andrei Teryokhin, head of the Russian Poultry Market Operators’ Association, alternatives may be found. “There are major producers like Brazil, the EU, Argentina, Canada, Turkey and Thailand.” But, he said, this may disrupt the market and prove to be time consuming.

Technical experts headed by USDA Undersecretary Jim Miller and Gennady Onishchenko, head of the Federal Consumer Protection Service, are scheduled to hold talks in Moscow on meat safety from 19 – 20 January.

As of 1 January, the consumer watchdog imposed a ban on poultry meat treated with chlorine, a process commonly used in the US. This threatened to halt US poultry exports to Russia, which were worth $800 mln in 2008.

Sergei Yushin, head of the National Meat Association, said there were countries that could increase poultry meat production rapidly and ship it to Russia. But, he said they will only do it if they receive guarantees that their products will be bought.

Under a tariff quota used by Russia to regulate imports, the US is entitled to ship 600,000 mt of poultry meat this year at a discounted import tariff. On Thursday, Moscow said it would allow imports of poultry meat cleared by customs before 19 January. It also said alternative sources of supply could be found, should Washington fail to observe the new rules.

Teryokhin does not expect the US to exclude chlorine washes to meet the Russian standards. But he said a compromise was possible over the estimate of the chlorine residue content. “US products should correspond to Russian safety standards, while the Russian side should present its demands to the products and not to their production process. When there is a wish, there is hope of a compromise.”

The outcome of the talks will depend on experts’ estimate of possible risks presented by chlorine in poultry meat, Yushin said.

Source: The Moscow Times

Natalie Berkhout

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