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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Details Still Bedevil Latest Chicken Deal

Washington and Moscow have reached a tentative settlement of their "chicken war," but a Russian official has said that details remain to be worked out before Moscow scraps a ban on U.S. poultry imports.


Though previously announced settlements have not proven final, this one, announced by U.S. Vice President Al Gore after talks in Washington, seemed serious.


"A solution in principle was found, but there are still things to negotiate," said Boris Kobzev of the Russian Agriculture Ministry in Moscow on Tuesday.


He said the first deputy agriculture minister, Vladimir Tcherbak, would travel to Washington to assist in talks.


Gore said in a statement issued Monday that Russian negotiators had agreed that U.S. poultry was safe and wholesome enough for Russian consumers.


In return, the United States agreed to tighten inspection procedures for poultry bound for Russia and would issue special inspection certificates to the shipments, Gore said.


"The president and I are pleased by this announcement, and look forward to the prompt resumption of American poultry exports to the Russian market," Gore said.


Russia will accept poultry shipments that left port before March 20, 1996, under old paperwork and will start to issue new import licenses within days, the statement said.


U.S. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman said the accord "provides for the development of mutually agreed criteria for review" of U.S. poultry processing and cold storage facilities. The review will be conducted jointly by U.S. and Russian veterinarians.


There were rumblings Tuesday in Moscow suggesting that the chicken war was not over yet. Interfax, citing unidentified sources in the government, said Gore had sent a letter to Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin threatening retaliatory trade measures if the issue was not resolved this week.


The sources said Gore complained about the "contents and the tone" of the talks and that the Russian negotiators, led by chief veterinary inspector Vyacheslav Avilov, had reneged on earlier agreements reached in telephone conversations with Chernomyrdin.


Russia stopped issuing import licenses Feb. 16 because of concerns about salmonella in U.S. poultry. Existing contracts were not affected, however, and U.S. chicken has continued to enter the country, said an official for the main Russian importer, Soyuzkontrakt, who declined to be identified.


U.S. poultry exports to Russia have grown sharply in the past five years, and Russia has become the biggest export market for poultry parts, buying $500 million worth last year.


Glickman and other top U.S. officials have dismissed Russia's complaints as unscientific, and accused Moscow of trying to protect its farmers, who are struggling in the post-communist economy.


Under terms of the deal agreed Monday, U.S. poultry processors will test Russia-bound shipments for strains of salmonella, in line with Russia's requirements. The United States has no mandatory salmonella testing program.


The two sides will resume talks Thursday to address U.S. concerns on Russia's poultry tariffs, which recently increased to 30 percent from 25 percent.


?Ukraine's Agriculture Ministry is seeking the suspension of U.S. chicken imports, a top veterinary official said Tuesday in Kiev.


Vasyl Matuzenko, deputy head of the veterinary service, told Reuters the ministry was acting out of concern for hygiene standards. He said veterinary officials wanted to send experts to the United States to inspect farms.


"We know nothing about where these chickens are raised," he said. "We do not know if there are any diseases in the states where they come from."


Under pressure from the farm lobby, Ukraine imposed a 30 percent rise in tariffs on U.S. chicken imports in January. American-produced chickens are on sale virtually everywhere in Kiev, and are a good buy at the equivalent of $2 per kilogram.


In 1995, Ukraine imported U.S. chickens worth more than $45 million. Imports in the first two months of this year were valued at $11.6 million.


(Reuters, MT)