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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Says Poultry Spat Almost Over

APA man buying U.S. poultry in a Moscow market on Wednesday.
A top U.S. agriculture official said Wednesday that a months-long spat over American poultry imports to Russia was nearing an end and normal trade would resume shortly.

J.B. Penn, U.S. Department of Agriculture undersecretary for farm and foreign agricultural services, was speaking after two days of negotiations with the Agriculture Ministry. Both sides said the talks had resolved several key issues over the imports.

"My judgment is that we are very close to completing the development of a new [import] certificate, and the discussions are continuing," Penn said. "And we are extremely hopeful that we can resolve the poultry issue."

Russia, the No. 1 market for imports of American poultry, banned the meat 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 Washington promised to tighten export controls, but Moscow insisted that the Americans revise their poultry health certificate to correspond with Russian safety demands.

Russia gave the United States two months to reach an agreement on the new certificate, but that goal has eluded negotiators. The Agriculture Ministry extended the deadline until Aug. 1 and threatened to reimpose the ban at that time if the United States failed to update the certificates.

Deputy Agriculture Minister Sergei Dankvert said Wednesday that Penn had proposed pushing the deadline to Oct. 1, but no decision to that effect has been made.

Dankvert warned that U.S. poultry exporters would already have to call off shipments at the start of the second week of July to prevent the meat from going to waste, should the new certificate not be ready by the Aug. 1 deadline.

Penn, however, was upbeat about the dispute.

"I am pleased to say that we have narrowed our differences substantially and reduced the number of outstanding issues to a very few," he said.

Penn said the unresolved issues concerned testing procedures, the practices at processing plants and the information that is included with the shipments.

Dankvert said this week's talks resolved the issue of how much chlorine U.S. farmers could use in breeding. The Americans agreed to use less chlorine.

The Russians also agreed to allow the use of one antibiotic in breeding, Interfax reported. An Agriculture Ministry spokesman could not elaborate.

Russian farmers are barred from using antibiotics for anything other than medicinal purposes.

Meanwhile, Penn said he was disappointed with a decision by the Economic Development and Trade Ministry on Monday to increase import duties on chicken. The ministry opened an investigation into whether U.S. poultry was being dumped on the market after the Russian Association of Poultry Producers complained the growth of poultry imports was hurting Russian farms. The association said imports grew from 235,400 tons in 1999 to 687,000 tons in 2000 and 1.3. million tons in 2001.

The ministry said it would raise tariffs while it looks into the complaint but has not yet determined by how much. The poultry import duty is currently 25 percent but not less than 0.2 euros ($0.20) per kilogram. A ministry source said the duty would be raised by 8.3 percent to 33.3 percent, Vedomosti reported.

"We were disappointed to see the decision to impose additional duties," Penn said. "We discussed it with the Economic Development and Trade Ministry.

"We are hopeful that the investigation will reveal that the volumes have been along fairly traditional lines and there is no need for the imposition of the duty," he said.