Russia is expected to remain the world’s largest importer of beef in 2012, according to industry reports.
Quoting United States Department of Agriculture projections, Meat and Livestock Australia this week said Russia was forecast to increase import volumes by one percent to 1.06 million tonnes this year.
Russia is Australia’s fourth largest export market for beef, taking 54,088 tonnes in 2011, according to MLA. Australia’s largest export markets for beef last year were Japan (342,188t), the US (167,820t) and Korea (146,356t).
Exports of Brazilian beef to Russia were significantly curtailed in May last year when Russia placed an embargo on a number of beef export facilities from Brazil. Under the arrangements only 84 of Brazil’s 249 licensed export plants can sell meat without restrictions to Russia.
MLA said the restrictions saw Brazil’s exports to Russia fall from a high of 33,854t in May last year to a low of 11,051t in September.
“Alternative suppliers to Russia are expected to benefit from the continued restrictions on Brazilian beef and the redirection of Brazilian product to other markets, largely in the Middle East and in their own domestic market,” MLA said.
Russia’s first deputy prime minister Viktor Zubkov this week stated that Russia was hoping to cut imports from 27pc of consumed meat to 15pc in the next few years.
He was referring to all sources of meat including pork and poultry, but added that the country is focusing on increasing its own production of beef.
“We have serious reserves for increasing beef output,” he said, according to a Reuters report. “The market niche for this product is basically free.”
He said Russia needed to develop national standards for beef in order to reduce imports of high quality beef from other countries.
At the same time prime minister Vladimir Putin pledged to support livestock farmers concerned by the potential impact that meat imports could have on their industry after Russia’s entry to the World Trade
Organisation. Reuters reported that Mr Putin indicated Russia may extend tax breaks enjoyed by agricultural producers, taking into account the forthcoming WTO membership. “There are instruments of protection…The state will support agricultural producers,” he said.
Virus prompts import ban
Meanwhile, Russia suspended live-animal imports from parts of Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, France and Belgium on Wednesday following the spread of the newly discovered Schmallenberg virus in the region.
The virus, named after the German town in which the outbreak was first identified in August last year, is spread by insects and causes miscarriages and birth defects in sheep, goat and cattle. The European Food Agency said during the week it believed the disease was not transmissible to humans.
Russia was Australia’s fifth largest market for cattle exports by volume and value last year, taking 30,568 head of primarily beef breeding cattle worth $56.5 million.