The restrictions were originally imposed due to several foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) outbreaks, registered in Russia in the year 2000, said Rosselkhoznadzor.
Russia was recognised as FMD-free by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) in May 2016, but China has only agreed to lift the trade restrictions on condition of regionalisation.
Meanwhile, all the key beef regions in Russia were included in the list of territories approved to resume supplies, including Bryansk Oblast, where agricultural holding Miratorg is currently building the largest beef complex in Europe.
Miratorg is aiming to grow its herd size to around 750,000 head by 2020, when the company hopes to be producing 130,000 tonnes (t) of beef per annum, the firm’s executives revealed earlier.
No alternative for Russian meat in Asia
Although, Russia’s largest beef producers have not yet commented on the opening of the Chinese market, Victor Linnik, president of Miratorg, speaking at a recent press conference in early September at Bryansk Oblast was very optimistic about the future of the Russian-Chinese meat trade.
He said: “Asian countries, including China, Japan and South Korea, will have no choice but to work with Russia and purchase our food – in particular meat – because the population in these countries is growing and there are no internal resources [in China] to increase food production.”
In this regard, he expressed confidence that Russia would be a major exporter of meat to Asia within the next 10-15 years, which would be important for the domestic meat industry.
“We can manufacture anything, we are able to set up technology and release high-quality products, but what we need now is access to foreign markets,” Linnik emphasised.
Miratorg plans to export meat to the value of US$100 million in 2017, compared to US$60m in 2016, Linnik forecast earlier. Opening up Asian markets for Russian meat could boost this figure by at least five times, to US$500m per year, he suggested.
Exports of poultry and pork still locked
Meanwhile, negotiations to open the Chinese market for Russian poultry and pork are pending, according to Russia’s Ministry of Agriculture.
China imposed avian influenza (AI)-related restrictions on Russian poultry in 2004 and African Swine Fever (ASF)-related restrictions on Russian pork in 2008, according to official information from Rosselkhoznadzor.
A spokesperson at the Russian veterinary body, who wished not to be named, said the prospects for these negotiations remained vague, as the situation for both AI and ASF in Russia remained complicated.
He pointed out that a recent outbreak of ASF was registered in Russia’s major pig region, Belgorod Oblast, in early September, and a series of outbreaks were reported in Siberia during the summer months.
Regrettably, he said, this was evidence that ASF was expanding its geographical spread in Russia and did not lend any additional weight to Russia’s negotiations with China.
As for poultry, he added, the situation was better, as Rosselkhoznadzor has managed to tackle the disease, but the scandal with AI-infected poultry on grocery shelves across Russia created a lot of media noise and it would take time until this was forgotten.