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Monday, February 22, 2010

U.S.-Russia Meat and Poultry Trade Issues

Renée Johnson
Specialist in Agricultural Policy

Geoffrey S. Becker
Specialist in Agricultural Policy

In December 2008, the United States and Russia signed a protocol aimed at resolving various emerging trade issues between the two countries in order to continue U.S. livestock and poultry exports to Russia through the end of 2009. By December 2009, however, Russia had escalated these trade issues in a series of actions that could effectively shut out U.S. livestock and poultry exports. These actions, in part, follow on Russia's threats throughout 2008 and 2009 regarding its concerns about antimicrobial use in U.S. meat production. 

Russia has continued to cite food safety concerns about antimicrobial residues and the use of chlorine rinses on U.S. meat exports, and has identified several U.S. poultry and meat processing companies as ineligible to export meat to Russia. In 2008 and again in 2009, Russia announced that it was banning poultry imports from several U.S. establishments due to safety concerns. In addition, throughout 2008 and 2009, Russia refused imports of pork products from several U.S. plants because trace amounts of antibiotics were found in some of the meat tested. As part of these actions, Russian officials signaled that U.S. permits to import poultry and pork under that country's quota system might be restricted. (Russia also banned pork products for most of 2009 from several countries, including the United States, following reports about the H1N1 influenza virus in April 2009.) 

In December 2009, Russia announced that it would implement its previously proposed ban on poultry imports treated with chlorine washes from all exporting countries, effective January 1, 2010. This action is expected to effectively ban all U.S. poultry exports to Russia, since pathogen reduction rinses are commonplace in U.S. poultry production. A similar European Union (EU) prohibition has kept U.S. chicken out of the EU since 1997. 

Also in December, reports emerged that Russia will reduce its 2010 import quotas for U.S. pork and poultry below 2009 quota levels. Russia's import quotas for U.S. beef, however, will increase above 2009 levels. Quota allocations for U.S. pork and poultry are expected to be reduced even further in both 2011 and 2012. 

Many U.S. producers believe that Russia's restrictions on U.S. antimicrobial use are not sciencebased, but are instead intended to protect and promote Russia's own growing domestic pork and poultry production. Some further point out that Russia's perceived "zero tolerance" regarding antimicrobial use is the most restrictive among all U.S. trading partners. For U.S. poultry and meat producers, the economic stakes of Russian import actions are significant. In 2008, Russia was the single largest export market for U.S. poultry products, with exports valued at more than $820 million (about 18% of total U.S. poultry exports). Russia was also among the leading export markets for U.S. pork and beef products, valued at $330 million and nearly $70 million, respectively. All these export products had also experienced strong growth in the Russian market. 

In January 2010, the United States and Russia initiated formal discussions in an attempt to resolve these trade issues. In Congress, some are pointing to the growing frequency of trade-based restrictions the use of certain antimicrobial drugs and on certain production practices, including the use of pathogen reduction treatments (PRTs) and water solutions containing chlorine. Members of Congress with important poultry and meat industry constituents are likely to monitor events and ongoing negotiations between the United States and Russia to resolve these disputes. 

Date of Report: January 29, 2010
Number of Pages: 12
Order Number: RS22948
Price: $29.95