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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Chicken Warriors Misfired Badly, Official Says

Foreign Trade Minister Oleg Davydov blasted the Agriculture Ministry on Tuesday for the trade spat it stirred with the United States over chicken imports.

"The government has one foreign economic policy, and that is the one developed by the Foreign Trade Ministry," Davydov told Interfax. "We can't have the Agriculture Ministry and the military-industrial complex coming up with their own policies."

Retaliatory trade measures threatened by Washington could have cost the Russian economy "hundreds of millions of dollars," Davydov was quoted as saying, adding that "before attempting to bar the imports of [chicken], someone should have done some thinking."

U.S. and Russian negotiators late last month finalized an agreement on a new health inspection regime, about six weeks after the Agriculture Ministry had stopped granting new import licenses for U.S. poultry and threatened a total ban. The dispute strained ties with Washington and took intervention by U.S. Vice President Al Gore and Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin to resolve.

Although Russian officials maintained that their objections were over health issues, particularly concern over salmonella contamination, the U.S. administration and independent experts saw a protectionist impulse behind the threatened ban.

Acting Agriculture Minister Alexander Zaveryukha on Tuesday acknowledged the poor state of the domestic poultry producers, telling the industry association Rosptitseprom that efficiency and quality needed to be improved and that the government would boost its support

U.S. imports accounted for 80 percent of domestic sales in 1995, Interfax quoted Zaveryukha as saying, while Russian chicken production was down 30 percent from 1994 and 58 percent from 1990.

Davydov said complaints about the quality of U.S. chicken should have been addressed to Russian importers at customs and not to foreign exporters.