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Russia to cut poultry, pork import quotas

Overseas suppliers of meat to Russia may make fewer shipments to that country next year as Russia plans to cut 2009 import quotas on poultry by 300,000 tonnes and pork by 200,000 tonnes.

Agriculture Minister Alexei Gordeyev announced the government’s plan Monday, as Prime Minister Vladimir Putin urged the government to speed up reform.

“We can replace these quantities with our own production,” Gordeyev said at a government meeting in response to a question from Putin.

The long-awaited quota reduction is designed to help domestic producers and could hit suppliers in the United States, who last year exported nearly $1 billion worth of poultry, mainly frozen chicken legs, and other meat products to Russia.

Russia, under an agreement that runs from 2005 until 2009, limits meat imports through a system of tariff quotas that increase every year.

Cherkizovo, Russia’s largest meat producer, said in October domestic poultry prices were flat in ruble terms in the first half of the year due to competition from cheaper imports from the U. S. and Brazil.

Poultry market lobbies from Russia and the U. S. agreed in principle in July to cut tariff quotas on U. S. imports from next year. The current system would allow for the United States to supply 931,500 tonnes of the total 1.25 million tonnes to be supplied in 2009.

Putin urged the government on Monday to speed up the process of revising the quotas. Economy Minister Elvia Nabiullina told the same meeting that a decision on the import quota cuts should be taken by Dec. 1.

This year, Russia permitted 1.21 million tonnes of tariff-free poultry imports, of which the U. S. can supply 901,400 tonnes. In August, Moscow banned imports from 19 U. S. producers, including three plants belonging to Tyson Foods, citing health and safety grounds.

Pork imports are set at 493,500 tonnes this year and were due to rise to 502,200 tonnes in 2009. The European Union has the largest share of the quotas.

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