CALGARY, ALBERTA — Russian meat industry executives recently conducted a one-week tour of Canada’s beef operations. It was the delegates’ first trip to Canada and their first look at the Canadian industry and they issued high praise for the Canadian cattle and beef industry, according to the Canada Beef Export Federation.

"The Canadian beef industry is a large-scale industry and one that is very technologically advanced," said mission delegate Sergey Yushin, chief executive of the National Meat Association in Moscow, Russia.

The Russian visit was one of a regular series of VIP Beef Buyers Awareness Missions conducted by the Canada Beef Export Federation as part of its strategy to expand international sales of Canadian beef. Led by Cam Daniels, C.B.E.F. vice-president of export services, the VIP Missions bring key foreign meat importers and trade executives to Canada to gain first-hand knowledge and understanding of the Canadian industry.

Including seven high-level representatives from Russia’s foodservice and retail sectors, as well as importers and distributors, the Russia VIP Mission traveled to Ontario, Quebec and Alberta, visiting packers, processors, trading companies, feedlots, ranches, cattle associations and government agencies.

Mr. Yushin said last year Russia imported more than 800,000 tonnes of boneless beef. "We also increased our imports of prime cuts for restaurants, hotels and retail," he added. "The Russian people are becoming more aware of high-quality beef; they want this product.

"Certainly the Russian market is not easy for any country," he continued. "Russian national veterinary standards are very strict, and only qualified suppliers can be approved to supply our country. But most plants I’ve seen here are absolutely ready to supply beef to Russia. My message to Canadian suppliers would be to respect the national standards and rules and always be in communication with your buyers and importers from Russia. Together you must find niche products for our customers. It’s difficult to compete against Argentina or Brazil, but I see that Canada can beat many countries on high-quality prime cuts, and that’s where your strong side is.

The Federation has increased its market development activities in Russia — participating in the ProdExpo Food Show in Moscow in 2009 and again in 2010; conducting the Russia VIP Mission; participating in the Canada-Russia Business Summit in Moscow June 19 to 27; and conducting a Demand Building Seminar in Moscow and St. Petersburg later this year.

The Federation’s export members have set the goal of exporting 10,000 tonnes of Canadian beef to Russia in 2009, 15,000 tonnes by 2010 and 20,000 tonnes by 2015. Canada gained access for boneless beef and selected offal derived from under 30-month cattle on Oct. 31, 2007.