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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

New Hurdles Arise in U.S. Poultry Dispute

The Agriculture Ministry will keep accepting U.S. poultry imports for another six weeks, but a Russian official warned that new U.S. demands threaten to derail a permanent solution to the months-long dispute.

U.S. and Russian officials had hoped to wrap up the dispute last week after exchanging a series of documents on Wednesday about new veterinary certificates.

But Sergei Kuznetsov, a spokesman for the Agriculture Ministry, said that the documents from J.B. Penn, U.S. undersecretary for farm and foreign agricultural services, "made a number of suggestions that in some cases contradicted previously reached agreements."

"Negotiations continue," Kuznetzov said.

The Russian government imposed a ban on U.S. poultry imports in March, citing concerns about sanitary conditions at U.S. plants and cases of salmonella in imported chicken.

The ban was lifted a month later, after the United States promised to tighten export controls, but new bureaucratic hurdles immediately arose.

Russia demanded a new veterinary certificate accompanying poultry imports and warned the United States that it would ban all U.S. poultry imports as of Aug. 1 without the new certificates. Russia had recently backed off that deadline, and Kuznetsov said Friday that the United States would have an additional six weeks to use the old certificates.

"We have a six-week extension, so we have time to work out any remaining issues," said a U.S. Embassy spokeswoman, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Kuznetsov said that among the remaining issues was a stipulation by the United States that it would only inform Russia about avian flu if asked directly by the Russians. The Russians said they would expect the United States to inform them immediately about all cases.

Avian flu does not pose health threats to humans but is highly contagious to poultry.

Prior to the dispute, U.S. producers in 38 states sent $600 million to $700 million worth of poultry to Russia each year, making chicken the largest U.S. export to Russia.

Meanwhile, Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, speaking during a trip to Tambov, said Friday that the city government has banned all of its divisions from purchasing U.S. chicken, Itar-Tass reported.