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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Meat Quota Moves Rub Brussels the Wrong Way

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- Russia needs to consult the European Union before it approves a plan to impose tough curbs on worldwide meat imports, a move that could cause serious damage to the EU's livestock industry, officials said this week.

Last week, Moscow said it would soon slap import quotas on poultry, pork and beef to protect domestic producers after anti-dumping probes showed excessive meat imports from the EU.

Russia represents the EU's largest single export market for beef and poultry, and is a significant outlet for EU pork.

"What we want to see under the EU-Russia agreement that we have is consultation. When one side takes a decision which affects another, there has to be consultation. That's what we did on grains," one European Commission official said.

"There is no decision yet, just a recommendation," he said, adding that no formal Russian notification had yet been received in Brussels regarding proposed curbs on meat imports.

Many European diplomats view Moscow's move on meat as tit-for-tat retaliation against the EU's new tariff quotas on grain imports, which came into force on Jan. 1 as a mechanism to stem large imports of cheap grain from Russia and Ukraine.

Both countries are still negotiating with the EU to try to secure exclusive grain import deals within the overall quota, similar to those now in place for Canada and the United States.

The EU is keeping a close eye on whether the threat would translate into reality, the official said.

The plan still has to undergo a complex approval process and would only enter force some weeks after receiving the green light from Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and being published in the government newspaper.

Under the proposals, Russia's annual beef imports would be capped at 420,000 metric tons, while pork imports will be limited at 450,000 tons. Poultry imports would see an upper limit of 1.05 million tons every year over the next three years.

Non-quota beef and pork imports would be allowed, but with a hefty duty, while poultry imports outside the quota would be banned.

Industry analysts say Europe's livestock market would suffer badly if Russia imposed its curbs on meat imports, as the measures would cause a supply glut in the EU. The main problem is pork, where EU livestock prices might decline, as there were no obvious new export markets -- leading to an unwanted surplus of relatively cheap supply.

Russia represents the EU's largest single export market for beef and poultry, accounting for around a half and third respectively of the bloc's overall exports in each sector.

France, Germany and Ireland are the EU's top exporters of fresh, chilled and frozen beef. For poultry products, where the EU exports some 1.1 million tons per year, France and the Netherlands are the bloc's largest shippers.

Russia is also a highly significant market for EU pigmeat and takes around a quarter of European pork exports, where Denmark is the major supplier. Germany, France and the Netherlands also rank as significant pork exporters.