Opening of Russian market unlikely to happen fast

The Russian market for both beef and cattle breeding stock offers great potential, but development in opening up these markets is not going to be fast, Eblex has warned. The cautious note came after an MP said that a trade mission to Russia next month could pave the way for Russia’s restrictions on BSE to be lifted.  

Harriett Baldwin, the Conservative MP for West Worcestershire, told BBC Radio 4’s Farming Today on Friday (3 August) that the chief vet’s visit to Russia next month could form part of a building block towards the import of breeding cattle to Russia. She is joining chief veterinary officer Nigel Gibbens, Defra back bench committee chairman Neil Parish, NFU vice-president Adam Greenier and cattle expert Dan Morris on the trade mission to Bryansk in Western Russia.  

In a statement, Baldwin called it a “huge boost” to be invited to Russia by the Governor of Bryansk to start discussing the “huge cattle deal”.

She told Farming Today that the Russian government was looking to buy around 250,000 head of cattle as a means to develop their own industry and that this provided a great opportunity for the Russian and UK agricultural sectors to learn from and trade with each other. She said that the lifting of the ban on beef was of key importance to secure these new markets.
And she added that there was a commitment to re-examine the ban on British beef and that the UK chief vet was to have meetings with his Russian counterpart and hopefully see a way through to lifting the ban and allow exports UK cattle to Russia, saying that hardy breeds, such as Aberdeen Angus and Hereford, were ideally suited to withstand the temperature ranges of the region.

When asked if she was confident that the ban would be lifted, she said: “I think this is clearly an area where discussions are ongoing, but it would be good new for both Russia and the UK to find areas of greater agricultural cooperation. There is clearly a lot of commonality between the different agricultural areas and there would be the potential for both countries to increase their export and imports and their agricultural trade.”

However, Jean-Pierre Garnier, Eblex’s head of exports, urged caution, saying that although there was great potential to export breeding cattle to Russia, this was not likely to happen imminently. “We don’t want people to get false hope,” he said.

He argued that there were three main considerations to be taken into account, the most important of these being the logical development of the opening of the Russian market. “Obviously we’re in close discussions with the Russians, but – particularly for breeding cattle – the development is not going to be fast. There are already a lot of cattle, particularly from America and Australia, being shipped to Russia,” he said.

Garnier pointed out that with the market in breeding stock being very strong in the UK, there was no proof that the Russian market would be willing to accept these strong UK prices. “The third point is the availability of cattle,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of available cattle for export.”

He said that while it was helpful to continue sending trade visits to Russia, patience and political-savviness were key.  

He pointed out that the UK had already started exporting breeding pigs to Russia and that there was “enormous” potential for exporting breeding sheep, as there was less competition from Australia and Canada on the sheep side.

“There’s a lot of fallow land in Russia that could have some sheep on it,” he said, “and although the climate is not always as good as the UK for sheep production, there is some potential for exporting breeding stock to Russia. We’ve proved in the past that it can be done. We’ve exported upward of 5,000 breeding pigs to Russia, so there’s no reason we cannot do that with sheep. But we’ve got to be patient and politically savvy.

“The visit of the Russian vets at the end of last year went very well and we are still in discussions regarding the follow-up of that visit.”

In May, MeatTradeJournal’s sister site GlobalMeatNews said Russia’s largest pork and animal-feed producer, Miratorg Agribusiness Holding, was increasing the country’s beef production capacity with a $750m scheme to build farms, feedlots, slaughterhouses and meat processing facilities in the Bryansk region of Russia. The firm aims to produce around 130,000 tons of meat per year in the longer term. It had already imported 11,500 Aberdeen Angus cattle from Australia and the US this year, bringing the number of breeding cows to 37,000, with a further increase of 100,000 planned by 2014.

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