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Slump in Russian Broiler Imports to go into Reverse

by 5m Editor
29 February 2012, at 7:27am

RUSSIA - The dramatic decline in Russia's poultry imports is to go into reverse this year thanks to the impact of trade agreements in eroding the protection afforded to domestic producers.

US Department of Agriculture staff in Moscow hiked by 44 per cent, to 510,000 tonnes, their forecast for Russia's broiler imports in 2012, implying a small rise over last year's buy-ins.

An increase would be the first in five years, since Russia began a campaign to boost its domestic livestock industry and cut its reliance on imports for meat, and exploit burgeoning grain supplies brought by improved harvest results.

The country between 2006 and 2007 spent more than 200bn roubles ($6.7bn at today's exchange rate) building and renovating poultry facilities, adding 1.8m tonnes by liveweight to production capacity.

Russia was until 2009 the top broiler meat importer, and retains top rank among world beef buyers, and second rank in pork, according to Agrimoney.com.

The country has championed domestic poultry producers through shrinking quotas for imports allowed at favourable tariff rates, besides enforcing tough sanitary requirements which have curbed shipments from the US, which slumped nearly two-thirds between 2008 and 2010, and, more recently, Brazil.

Imports from Brazil were, at 59,193 tonnes, 60 per cent lower in the first 10 months of last year than in the same period of 2010, after Russian officials banned supplies from some farms over concerns about the regime for monitoring for toxic residues.

However, market access for imports is now "more favourable than in 2011", the USDA bureau said in a report.

The agreement of a regional customs union has opened up the country to what appear "unlimited quantities" of poultry from Belarus, with Russia accepting supplies "beyond agreed-upon levels".

And Russia's accession to the World Trade Organization later this year will bring a rare relaxation in tariff rate quotas, lifting by extra 30,000 tonnes the ceiling for frozen, boneless chicken mean, of which the European Union is the main recipient.

Russia's WTO commitments also introduce a quota for frozen turkey meat, albeit set at a modest 14,000 tonnes.

The freer access will have some impact in slowing growth in Russia's own broiler meat production, with the country's farm ministry itself forecasting slower expansion this year than the 11 per cent achieved last year, on US estimates.

But the hit will be cushioned somewhat by extra consumption, as "better access to imports keeps poultry retail prices growing less rapidly than the rest of the consumer basket", the report said.

Russia's domestic chicken output will grow by 4.9 per cent this year, the USDA staff forecast.