While the official ban on hormone-free pork from the US has now been lifted, effective from 10 March, confusion remains over who is eligible to export to Russia after the authorities claimed the restrictions needed to be tightened up as they only applied to producers, and not cold storage exporters.
Russian vets have expressed concern that the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service must guarantee that no dangerous drugs be added to meat products while in storage. At present, guarantees only apply during the production process.
Alexei Alexeenko, assistant head of Rosselkhoznadzor, the Russian veterinary watchdog, said: "We lifted the ban on the importats of US pork to Russia to compensate for the losses [on the domestic market] from the ban on imports of European pork."
He said his organisation was working "day and night" in order to ensure safe imports of pork from other regions around the world.
Work is under way to identify US businesses that are eligible to supply pork to the Russian market, but the further measures on manufacturers make it unlikely that pork exports will resume by the 10 March deadline, experts warned, with some suggesting the decision was undertaken hastily in reponse to the worsening political situation.
The US also recently refused permission to allow a Rosselkhoznadzor delegation to carry out inspections in the States. However, Russian vets deny any connection between this step and the new demands.
"Our requirements for additional guarantees are not associated with the US refusal to let representatives from the Russian authorities go to their country to conduct negotiations," a spokesman said.