In a new initiative, Russian veterinary watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor plans to allow meat imports from India and South Korea.
"Rosselkhoznadzor is ready to explore the possibility of safe pork supply from other countries in south-east Asia, particularly South Korea, and India," said a statement from the veterinary body.
Sergei Dankvert, head of the department, confirmed: "The veterinary watchdog is considering opening up pork imports from India and South Korea." However, he did not specify the level of supply that could be provided by these two countries.
Supplies of pork from South Korea to Russia were restricted from 11 February 2010, in response to an outbreak of food-and-mouth-disease in the country. Meanwhile, Indian companies have never supplied pork to Russia, according to official information from Rosselkhoznadzor.
Russia has already allowed imports of buffalo meat from India, while imports of pork and other meat products will be adopted in two steps. The first one will take place from 5 November, when Rosselkhoznadzor will approve a primary list of meat supplies from that country. For the second step – which should take place in mid-December – this list to be expanded.
Experts note, that Rosselkhoznadzor’s new strategy, developed in response to a shortage of meat on the Russian market, provides that the demand on the domestic meat market should be diversified and partly covered by exotic meats, such as kangaroo, crocodile, buffalo meat and so on.
"So far Rosselkhoznadzor has certified four Indian businesses, which now have the right to supply buffalo meat to Russia. The veterinary service will continue the certification of companies, and soon we will come to producers of poultry, egg powder and dairy goods," said Alexei Likhachev, Russian deputy economic development minister.
Following the embargo on meat imports from the European Union and the US, the situation for meat in the domestic market is getting worse. A continuing rise in prices in the long term could mean that the least wealthy consumers will have to stop buying meat, experts predict.
In a bid to overcome the rise in prices, the Russian Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) has launched unscheduled inspections of all the meat unions and associations in Russia, suspecting them of being in a cartel agreement. Representatives of the associations themselves called this initiative nonsense.
"We cannot be a cartel," said Yuri Kovalev, president of the Union of Pig Producers. "We do not work with retailers – we only sell live pigs and half-carcases to meat-packing plants."
President of the National Meat Association Sergey Yushin said the Antimonopoly Service had also contacted the association on the issue. "They may suspect that the association has provoked an increase or decrease in prices. But the meat market is always naturally volatile," he added.
Previously, the FAS has penalised a number of meat producers in the country, blaming them for an unreasonable increase in meat prices. However, experts doubt that such measures can really stop prices from rising further.