Russia’s WTO move spells meat export opportunity

Jon Condon, 15/03/2012


A more liberal meat import regime conceded-to by Russia as part of its accession to the World Trade Organisation presents a boon to red and white meat protein exporters in other parts of the world eyeing-off opportunities in Eastern Europe.

An increase of more than 40 percent, to 60,000 tonnes, in Russia's low-tariff quota on imports of US beef presented a ‘large opportunity’ for US exporters, the US Department of Agriculture's Moscow bureau said this week.

However, other exporters also look set to benefit from lower trade hurdles, including the European Union in live pig shipments, for which import tariffs are currently set to fall from 40pc to just 5pc.

Russia has also broadened its definition of high-quality beef, of which Australia is a major exporter.

Russia's concessions also include a commitment to eliminate "non-science-based sanitary barriers" to imports, following bans on supplies from a number of countries based on factors interpreted in some exporting countries as ‘idiosyncratic’- such as unusually severe antibiotic residue limits and the use of chlorinated washes for carcase decontamination.

Such reforms should assist, but are unlikely to singlehandedly assure, Brazil's attempts to regain substantial pork access, to the Russian market, trade sources said yesterday.
Russia last year banned meat imports from a number of Brazilian plants on grounds that these supplies were insufficiently supervised by local officials.

Further boosting trade prospects, lower prices encouraged by a more liberal import regime should encourage Russian meat consumption and increase the size of the overall market.

"Russia's WTO market access commitments for beef and pork should lead to expanding consumption in 2012," USDA’s Moscow bureau said.

Latest Russian trade concessions have been opposed by domestic meat groups, including the Russian Union of Swine Breeders, which has estimated losses to local pork producers alone at 20 billion roubles a year, and demanded government support at that level.

The USDA has now raised its forecast beef shipments to Russia this year to 50,000 tonnes, while pork imports could rise by as much as 200,000t 900,000t.

Since the mid-2000s, Russia has sought to expand its own domestic livestock industry in a bid to cut its reliance on imports, and utilise domestically growing grain production.

The country was until 2010 the top buyer of broiler meat, and remains the second-ranked pork importer in the world.


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