The move came as a surprise to both importers and meat producers and raised a lot of questions, as Russian veterinary legislation has no clarification of definitions of meat destined for child consumption.
Medvedev’s decision has raised concerns among meat producers. Representatives of the National Meat Association (NMA) emphasised that the decision had been taken without any consultation with the industry and that it was unclear what the basis for this initiative was.
“For us it is not actually clear how this resolution has been prepared and what arguments justify partial cancellation of the embargo,” said NMA executive committee chairman Sergei Yushin. “In Russia meat destined for the production of baby food has never been certified before. In our opinion this does not differ substantially from any other meat that meets veterinary and sanitary requirements.”
A large number of politicians and meat producers have claimed that, with this decision, the government has actually undermined the reputation of the country’s meat industry.
“Through this initiative, the government has admitted that Russia does not have [domestic production of] cattle meat, poultry, by-products and vegetables destined for the manufacture of baby food,” said member of Parliament Dmitry Goodkov.
“We believe such moves make state policy on the meat market rather non-transparent and unpredictable,” said a source in one Russian meat company. “This decision will not affect most investment projects that are currently developing in the country, but it undermines the overall investment attractiveness of the Russian meat sector.”
According to Yushin, Russian officials have repeatedly stated that foreign companies use growth hormones and steroids in the production of meat and, for this reason, many businesses were forbidden to supply to Russia even before the embargo.
Representatives of Russia’s Agriculture Ministry explained that, to get the right to supply, meat importers from the sanction list would have to prove that the products would actually be used for the manufacture of baby food, showing an agreement with a Russian manufacturer of the relevant products.
At the same time, Yushin noted that this mechanism could be open to corruption, as some suppliers could use it to restore imports to the country.
“Perhaps someone can use [this opportunity] as a loophole [for delivering of meat destined not only for baby food production],” he said. “I hope the controls on this are extremely strict.”
Even though Medvedev’s decision has already been put in place and importers have the right to purchase meat destined for baby food from the EU and the US, the methods for importing such products have not been determined. As a result, even with proper documentation, delivery of such products could meet with problems in the weeks ahead, importers said.