. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Chernomyrdin Talks Peace in Chicken War


Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin appeared to ease the verbal war between Russian officials and Washington over a ban on U.S. poultry imports, stating his intention to take a "balanced" approach that could include a compromise.

But the prime minister's comments on Tuesday came as U.S. chicken producers announced that they will be cutting back production after more than a decade of growth, laying the blame on both sky-high feed costs and the Russian ban.

Chernomyrdin's call for a measured approach came one day after disclosure of a letter from U.S. Vice President Al Gore dubbing the Russian ban both arbitrary and discriminatory.

The Russians maintain that U.S. chickens fail local veterinary certification procedures.

"The prime minister is personally studying the recommendations of acting Agriculture Minister Alexander Zaveryukha, and will make a balanced decision," said Chernomyrdin's spokesman, Viktor Konnov, noting the possibility of what he termed a "compromise option."

The statement is a switch from the prime minister's initial approach to Gore's letter, which the Russian side described as having an "excessively sharp tone," prompting Chernomyrdin to put off phoning the vice president.

Members of the State Duma voiced their support Tuesday for the U.S. poultry import ban after studying the findings of the Agriculture Ministry's veterinary department, Interfax reported.

Members of the Duma dismissed fears of a retaliatory U.S. blockade of the Russian market, noting in a memo obtained by Interfax that Russian importers have 150,000 tons of chicken in storage that will last the nation three to four months -- by which time U.S. imports should be properly certified.

In Washington, Senator William Roth, the Republican chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, has recommended that if Russia does not lift the ban the United States should cut off aid and reconsider its support of a $10 billion loan by the International Monetary Fund to the country. Meanwhile, American chicken producers announced that they will cut back production in 1996 for the first time in more than a decade, Reuters reported, linking the cutback to both increases in feed grain prices and the Russian ban.

Tyson Food Inc., the largest U.S. poultry producer, announced Friday it would cut production by 7 percent. Another producer, Hudson Foods Inc., said Monday it would do the same.

At the same time Chernomyrdin was extending a potential olive branch, President Boris Yeltsin criticized Western barriers to Russian textiles and the avalanche of low-quality Western goods finding their way to the Russian market.

"Frequent anti-dumping measures are blocking access to European and other world markets for goods of the Russian textile industry," the president told industry workers, adding that the measures stand as proof of Western fears of quality, low-cost Russian exports. ()