Among other items, Russian authorities are seeking to harmonise the country’s veterinary standards with international rules, which could lift some barriers to meat trade with its main partners.
According to the President, the reform will help move away from double standards for Russian and foreign products, and establish a single procedure for monitoring product quality “from field to counter”. The first report on the development of a new system is due to be submitted to the President on 10 November, while a final draft should be available by 1 December.
“Currently, in Russia, issues [of food quality] are mostly subject to voluntary certification,” said Viktor Evtukhov, Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade.
Russian authorities have suggested that the author of the new reform is the Russian sanitary body Rospotrebnadzor, which has already pointed out that food product quality is currently regulated under thousands of different rules, none of which include a definition of the term ‘product quality’.
Fewer trade barriers
Russian Production Union deputy board chairman Dmitri Leonov claimed current Russian standards and international regulations were very different: “In some product categories, Russia has stricter requirements [compared to foreign regulations], while in other cases they are softer,” he said.
“In recent years these differences have resulted in restrictions on meat products, in the first instance, by Russia’s veterinary authorities,” explained Russian agricultural analyst Eugene Gerden. “This covers a wide variety of issues, from water content in frozen meat products to the limits of quarantine zones where meat trade [with Russia] is prohibited due to an epizootic outbreak.”
“So for foreign meat suppliers this is a good sign, but the important issue is to know which standards will be used for harmonisation. It will probably be the standards set by the European Union, but given the geopolitical situation, this process will not be easy,” he added.
Joint products database
In addition, industry participants are currently faced with differing standards, but also a lot of checking and the new reform should change the situation. “At the moment each department selects the products [for inspection], guided by its own competence and functionality: someone looks at raw products, another person at finished products,” said Elena Sarattseva, deputy head of the recently created Russian Quality Control Agency (Roskachestvo). “Different departments do not interact with each other and each has its own information control systems,” she said.
According to Sarattseva, Roskachestvo will support the development of a joint system of quality control “from field to counter”, which will enable authorities to determine from what meat cut certain finished products have been produced. A similar system currently operates in the European Union, she added.
Fight against smuggling
The other important change of the new reform, concerning meat smugglers, will be introduced in the next couple of weeks. Russia’s Ministry of Agriculture has developed a Bill which provides that, if products from the ‘sanction list’ are identified, they will be destroyed immediately rather than being sent back to the supplier.
This measure was announced by First Deputy Minister of Agriculture Eugene Gromyko, who added that the Ministry has also developed a package of regulations to cover certain areas regarding the use of meat, dairy and all other products that are subject to the current food embargo.