Reopening Russia to U.S. pork is challenging

by Bryan Salvage
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DENVER — In recent days, U.S. trade officials have gained substantial ground to reduce the number of states suspended from exporting pork to Russia due to A-H1N1 influenza, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation. But even when the influenza-related suspensions are fully removed, U.S.M.E.F. said the U.S. must still resolve the issue of having more than 30 pork plants delisted by Russia for other reasons — a problem which has severely limited the flow of exports over the past several months.

"We’ve had a struggle with Russia over the last few years for a lot of different reasons," said Paul Clayton, U.S.M.E.F. senior vice-president for export services. "They have a very strict set of regulations that we don’t necessarily believe are very scientifically based — they tend to be a little bit antiquated."

The U.S. has had difficulties in trying to comply with some of Russia’s rules. "They’re not exactly the same as the U.S. rules so that makes it difficult on U.S. operators," Mr. Clayton said. "We’re trying to resolve that by working closely with the Russian government. We’re trying to show them the procedures we do conduct are very scientifically based, protect consumers and put a high degree of food safety on those products."

Invitations have been extended to the Russians to see U.S. pork production facilities from the live animal side and the meat processing side so they have a better feel of how they operate and try to comply with basic food safety control and procedures.

While the process has been frustrating, Mr. Clayton is confident progress is being made.

"When we changed our Administration, there was a time period where we had to get the right people into the right place because they have to be the ones who will be discussing a lot of these procedural issues with the Russian government," he added. "U.S.M.E.F. plays a role in helping to (deliver) that information on what the various issues are and what direction we need to go to try and accomplish better market access."

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