By DAN WHEAT
TOPPENISH, Wash. -- A beef processor in Toppenish, Wash., has been shut off from exporting beef to Russia and by Feb. 11 virtually no U.S. beef or pork will be shipped there.
Russia is enforcing a zero residue tolerance of the leanness-enhancing feed additive ractopamine, said Joe Schuele, a U.S. Meat Export Federation spokesman in Denver, Colo.
While other countries have maximum acceptable levels of residue, Russia has sporadically enforced a no tolerance policy for some time and now is taking a harder line, Schuele said. The federation represents beef, pork and lamb exporters.
The no residue restriction is for chilled and frozen product. Few exporters, if any, will be able to meet that standard, said Jay Theiler, executive director of marketing at Agri Beef Co., Boise, Idaho, owner of Washington Beef in Toppenish.
The closure is occurring a few days earlier for Washington Beef because residue was found in a shipment of liver it made in December, Theiler 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.
But the impact nationwide 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.
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 if that's a cause of its crack down or not.
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, he said.
Theiler said Washington Beef's loss will be made up domestically and likely by shipping more to other countries, including Japan, which is now accepting beef from cattle 30 months and younger instead of 20 months and younger, he said.
There is opportunity for good growth in Japan, which was the largest U.S. beef export market, at 375,000 metric tons, prior to an outbreak of mad cow disease in 2003, Schuele said. The 20-month and younger restriction was imposed in 2006 after closure of the market following the outbreak, he 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.
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.
Schuele said 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.
While lesser restrictions in Japan is good news, it is difficult to say if it will offset the loss in Russia because of variable including how long the Russian closure lasts.