While the official reason given for the ban is the “detection of the number of harmful substances in the animal production of several businesses”, industry observers believe Rosselkhoznadzor is concerned about the rapid growth of re-exports of meat from the European Union (EU) and in small quantities from Canada, coming into Russia from Belarus.
“Next week we will invite our Belarusian colleagues to talks to discuss the results from monitoring Belarusian products for the last nine months, taking into account the need for action, including the possible imposition of a supply ban,” said Dankvert.
According to Dankvert, tetracycline group antibiotics, mesophilic aerobic and facultative anaerobic microorganisms and E.coli were identified in shipments of animal products from Belarus. “Active monitoring continues and will produce further results,” he added.
Dankvert also identified which of the largest meat-producing and processing businesses in the country could be banned from supplying meat to Russia, including the Bobruisk, Berezovsky, Brest and Mogilev meat-packing plants, Vitebsk Broiler Poultry plant, the Białowieża Delicacies Company and Agricultural Complex Dzerzhinsky.
Rosselkhoznadzor’s management also said an important part of future negotiations with the Belarusian authorities would be the opportunity to work together with Russian specialists on the Belarusian border of the Customs Union.
“Due to the fact that there are cases of supplying prohibited products from the EU via Belarus, we have invited our Belarusian colleagues to carry out joint inspections at the external border of the Customs Union, but our request was denied,” said Dankvert. In the opinion of the most Russian experts, the re-export of meat products from the EU is the real reason behind the Russian veterinary authority’s action against Belarus.
“There were reports that Belarus may be providing supplies of up to 20% of all banned meat products from the EU to Russia, and there were dozens of cases when Belarussia forwarded shipments from European countries to Russia,” said Moscow-based agricultural analyst Eugene Gerden.
At the same time, representatives from Belarus said they were doing everything possible to limit the supply of prohibited products in Russia. “The Customs authorities of Belarus are taking all the measures within their power to prevent the transit of goods banned from import into the Russian Federation,” said Sergei Poluden, deputy chairman of the State Customs Committee of Belarus.
Dankvert also commented on the fact that Belarus had refused to conduct joint tests of finished meat products imported to Russia. “They clearly understand that these tests will show the products are made, for example, from Canadian meat, and that we will find traces of ractopamine in them,” he said. He claimed that Belarus had never previously imported meat from Canada, but that, during three weeks in September, the country imported 560 tonnes from the Canadian market.
At the same time, Rosselkhoznadzor stressed that it was not aiming to “close off supplies of Belarusian products to the Russian market”. “We want to find an understanding and we hope restrictions will not ensue,” commented the veterinary watchdog’s press service.