Russia bans kiwi meat

NZ Farmers Weekly, Nigel Stirling

Russia has followed through on its threat to ban beef imports from New Zealand for failing to meet import requirements.

In a statement Russia’s Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance said the ban was because of the discovery of listeria and traces of the banned feed additive ractopamine in NZ beef shipments.

The statement said that “to ensure the country’s food safety” the agency “is bringing in temporary restrictions on imports into Russia of beef and beef products from NZ from February 6.”

It said it was also contemplating a ban on fish imports from NZ.

The ban followed the head of the service Sergey Dankvert in October saying he was contemplating banning chilled beef and fish from NZ after traces of listeria and mercury had been found in imports.

The Ministry for Primary Industries said it had been notified in September of the finds in three shipments of chilled meat and fish of levels of listeria and mercury that exceeded levels permitted by Russian import regulations.

MPI said the levels were in line with NZ’s own microbiological and contaminant standards.

The ban would come as a shock to the Government, which has repeatedly sought clarification from Russian officials over the comments by Dankvert.

An MPI spokesman late last month told Farmers Weekly those attempts had still to yield a response.

Russia has a record of banning or restricting food imports for alleged violations of sanitary norms.

It banned or restricted a range of European food imports after the European Union slapped sanctions on Russia for its annexation of Crimea and support for east Ukrainian rebels in 2014.

Export licences were also withdrawn from many NZ dairy processing plants after Fonterra’s botulism scare.

While the ban was partially lifted in August 2015 it remained in place at those plants for butter, which historically had been the most significant part of a sizable dairy trade with Russia for NZ exporters. Butter from plants not on the original banned list is still going to Russia.

An MPI spokesman said last week NZ was still waiting for Russian inspectors to visit remaining plants to give them the all-clear.

It is widely suspected in diplomatic circles that foot-dragging on this issue by Russian authorities was in return for NZ’s support of Western allies against Russia’s involvement in Ukraine and Syria.

Meat Industry Association figures showed NZ meat exports to Russia had fluctuated between $49m and $57m since 2010.

Most recent figures showed the trade holding up at $27.8m for the first six months of 2016.