Further signs of growing market confidence in Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) surveillance and prevention systems came last week when Russia declared it will lift a 16-year-old ban on British meat imports.
Russia’s ban was implemented in the wake of the 1996 outbreak of BSE in Britain.
After inspecting British farming and processing facilities recently, the country’s food safety and veterinary authority Rosselkhoznadzor has announced it is now moving to lift the long-standing ban on beef and mutton imports from the United Kingdom.
The decision was taken following negotiations in Moscow with a delegation led by British Chief Veterinary Officer Nigel Gibbens.
Rosselkhoznadzor spokesman Alexei Yeryomenko told Russian media: "Today a decision was made to lift the ban on the imports of beef and mutton from the UK into Russia soon.
“Now we need to coordinate the move with our colleagues from the Customs Union.
"We have accepted guarantees from the British side.
"This issue will be resolved within the week.”
Russia is the world’s largest importer of beef, importing around 600,000t annually.
It was Australia’s fourth largest export market for beef in 2011, taking 49,505 tonnes of primarily frozen boneless beef, worth $186 million.
Australian exports to the country have come under considerable pressure from competing Brazilian product this year since Russia freed-up access limitations on South American beef. Brazil enjoys a preferential tariff over Australia into Russia while currency factors have also helped its price-competitiveness into the market.
UK meat industry body EBLEX said Russia’s decision to lift the 16-year-old ban could be worth between £80 million and £115 million (A$122m-A$176m) to its beef and lamb industries over the next three years.
“Beef exports are expected to begin from a limited number of plants in the new year, while lamb exports are due to follow in April,” an EBLEX statement said.
“The technical decision to lift the ban was made during the summer and this political announcement has confirmed the position.
The UK’s fresh and frozen beef and veal exports were worth £438.1 million (A$671m) in 2011.
EBLEX said a delegation of eight Russian vets recently spent a week visiting farms and processing facilities as part of the process of working towards developing potential market access for the UK.
“Russia remains one of the largest global importers of beef and the potential for beef exports there is enormous,” EBLEX head of trade development Peter Hardwick said.
“We welcome the official political announcement but are not surprised as the technical decision to lift the ban had already been made.”