WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND – The prospect of improved market access in the Russian market offers opportunities for New Zealand sheep and beef farmers and industry, said Meat & Wool New Zealand (M.W.N.Z.) and the Meat Industry Association (M.I.A.) in response to news of preliminary talks to investigate a free-trade agreement with Russia. Both organizations said this could provide a real advance in New Zealand’s ability to trade with Russia.

Although Russia is currently a relatively small market for the New Zealand red-meat industry, it is a country that has a substantial population of red meat consumers with growing incomes and the potential to support significant market growth, said Bill Falconer, M.I.A. chairman.

During the past five years, the New Zealand red meat industry’s exports to Russia have been around $30 million (US$20.2 million) annually, primarily consisting of sheepmeat and beef offals.

Exports peaked at $56 million (US$37.7 million) in 2008 before the impact of the global financial crisis softened Russian demand for imported meat last year.

Although Russian imports of red meat have been volatile recently, the expectation is that Russian demand for red meat will continue to increase and that a significant proportion of this increased demand will have to be met by imports, said Mike Petersen, M.W.N.Z. chairman.

Mr. Petersen added the arrangement with Russia would be significant if it provided genuine improved access into the market. “This development is important because it’s not just about eliminating tariffs, but also addressing non-tariff barriers that restrict trade,” he concluded.