Russian authorities are cutting off purchases from slaughter plants that handle animals treated with ractopamine
Russia has blocked beef and pork shipments from dozens of Canadian meat plants, including two in Manitoba, in an ongoing dispute over the use of the feed additive ractopamine.
According to a list from VPSS, Russia’s veterinary inspection service, only 15 Canadian pork and four beef processors can still ship to Russia because they don’t handle livestock treated with ractopamine. The release of the list was delayed several days by Russian authorities.
The Maple Leaf plant in Winnipeg can continue to ship pork to Russia while the Maple Leaf facility along with HyLife Foods in Neepawa are under temporary restrictions, says a list distributed by VPSS.
Quebec has 10 accepted plants, Ontario one, Alberta four and British Columbia three. Except for several Maple Leaf and Olymel plants, the operations appear to be smaller operations. The Canadian Pork Council says that prior to the latest crackdown, 42 establishments were approved to ship pork.
It remains unclear what disqualified plants have to do to re-establish their export business. Pork Council spokesman Gary Story said, “We are focused on working with Canadian and Russian authorities to have other plants eligible to ship pork to Russia. The industry is also attempting to establish a ractopamine protocol the industry can use to help gain access to the market.
While Canadian pork is shipped to more than 120 countries, “Russia is an important market for Canadian pork,” he added. “Canada shipped 200,000 tonnes of pork with a value of $500 million in 2012.” Between 2009 and 2012, pork exports increased by 350 per cent and almost 500 per cent in value. Canada supplied 25 per cent of Russia’s pork imports last year.
Farmers feed ractopamine to livestock to increase the amount of nutrition they can consume from their feed. While Health Canada has ruled the product is safe for the animals and consumers, Russia, South Korea and Taiwan have banned it over health concerns.
Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz has said the Russian move is another example of trade restrictions being imposed without any scientific justification. “Despite our collaborative efforts, the Russian government is moving forward with this measure not rooted in science. We continue to work aggressively with Canadian industry to restore their access into the important Russian market.”
The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association says the levels of ractopamine being fed to Canadian cattle are well below the internationally set limit. It blames low livestock prices in Russia for driving the trade barrier.
The additive enables the animals to digest more of their feed and this helps farmers be more efficient and reduce production costs.
In addition to Russia, South Korea and Taiwan have banned it over concerns that residues could remain in the meat and cause health problems even though considerable scientific evidence indicates it is safe.
In December, Russia required all imported meat to have never been treated with ractopamine, which severely reduced beef shipments. Now it will only take product from plants that don’t handle animals fed the stimulant.
Russia had banned U.S. beef, pork and turkey because of ractopamine even though the additive isn’t used in turkey production. The U.S. has said it suspects the ban had more to do with American criticism of Moscow’s human rights’ record.
Russia imported 1.32 million tonnes of red meat, excluding offal, worth $5.12 billion from countries outside the Commonwealth of Independent States in 2012.
One option for Canada is to challenge the Russian action at the World Trade Organization, which Moscow recently joined. However, trade complaints take a long time to resolve at the international trade body.