By DAN WHEAT
Russia has banned U.S. beef and pork by enforcing zero tolerance on residue of a feed additive while Japan has lowered its restrictions on U.S. beef.
It is difficult to say if gains in Japan will offset losses in Russia because it is unknown how long the Russian closure will last, said Joe Schuele, a U.S. Meat Export Federation spokesman in Denver, Colo.
While other countries have maximum acceptable levels of residue for the leanness-enhancing feed additive ractopamine, Russia has sporadically enforced a zero tolerance policy and now is taking a harder line, Schuele said. The federation represents beef, pork and lamb exporters.
Washington Beef, a processor in Toppenish, Wash., was cut off from exporting beef to Russia in January because of residue in liver it shipped there in December.
Russia tightened its zero tolerance enforcement on chilled beef on Feb. 5 and frozen beef and pork on Feb. 11.
Very few U.S. exporters can meet the no-residue standard so it essentially closes the market, said Jay Theiler, executive director of marketing at Agri Beef Co., Boise, Idaho, owner of Washington Beef.
Russia isn't doing much to develop its own beef industry but has aggressive goals for boosting its pork production, Schuele said, adding he can't say whether that's a cause for the crackdown or not.
The impact is significant because the U.S. exported just under 80,000 metric tons of beef, valued at $306 million, to Russia from January through November 2012, Schuele said. That is a record and was up substantially from the year before, he said.
For the same period, the U.S. shipped 98,000 metric tons of pork valued at $279 million, he said.
While Tyson Foods, JBS, Cargill and National Beef are the largest beef companies in the country and export to Russia, many smaller companies also export a lot to Russia, Schuele said.
"Russia is one of our top 10 exports out of 26 countries we ship to. It's probably 1 to 2 percent of our production, so it's not devastating," Theiler said.
Schuele said U.S. Meat Export Federation is working with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and USDA to resolve the issue with Russia but would not speculate on how long that may take.
Theiler said Russia likely will face U.S. government action for violation of World Trade Organization standards that are based on international Codex standards for maximum residue levels.
Meanwhile, Japan lessened its restrictions on U.S. beef on Feb. 1. It now accepts beef from cattle 30 months and younger instead of only 20 months a younger, Schuele said.
The 20-month restriction was imposed in 2006 after closure of the market following an outbreak of mad cow disease in Washington state in 2003.
There is opportunity for good growth in Japan which was the largest U.S. beef export market, at 375,000 metric tons, prior to 2003, Schuele said.
About 144,000 metric tons of beef, valued at $1.1 billion, was shipped to Japan from the U.S. in 2012 through November, he said.