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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russian Meat Quotas Pinch World's Top Pork Exporter

COPENHAGEN, Denmark -- Europe's biggest pork producer, Danish Crown, said Tuesday that Russia's quotas on meat imports, introduced two weeks ago, were severely damaging its sales to the country.

"For the two weeks in April we have had less than one-fourth of normal sales," Danish Crown sales manager Jens Christiansen said.

"It is difficult to say what is due to the quotas and what is due to slow demand. The quotas are creating uncertainty among our customers and making them more reluctant to buy."

Moscow decided in January to restrict poultry meat, beef and pork imports by setting quotas, saying it wanted to enhance domestic production.

Quotas were set at 315,000 metric tons for beef imports and at 337,500 tons for pork in the nine months starting April 1.

Denmark is the world's largest exporter of pork.

Privately owned Danish Crown exports on average 100,000 tons of meat annually to Russia, of which 90 percent is pork. Russia is its No. 9 export market.

Russian importers have now been trying to source more of their meat from Ukraine and Belarus, which are not included in the quota system, Christiansen said.

Danish Crown's sales to Russia have also been hit by a favorable tariff rate deal on pork that Moscow has struck with Brazil.

"It seems Russia has made a special agreement with Brazil and that's also affecting the market," he said.

If the export situation does not improve, Christiansen said pork prices, already low, would fall even further: "If this is going to last for long and if it results in a lower export level to Russia, then of course it will affect prices."

Moscow's move on meat has been seen as retaliation against the EU's tariff quotas on grain imports, which came into force on Jan. 1 this year to hold back a flood of imports of cheap grain from Russia and Ukraine.