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Monday, 26 August, 2002, 10:37 GMT 11:37 UK
Russia settles US chicken row
US chicken on sale in Moscow
Russia is the biggest export market for US chicken
Russia has agreed to lift its restrictions on imports of American chicken after a six month dispute over food safety, US officials said.

American chicken companies now hope to resume exports to Russia as soon as possible.

"This agreement comes at a critical time for the US poultry industry and will allow trade flows to resume with much greater certainty," said US Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman.

Russians consume imports of US chicken worth $630m (414m), making it the biggest overseas market for US poultry farmers.

The two countries have agreed on a new veterinary certificate which will enable exports to resume, officials at the US Department of Agriculture said.

False dawn

The dispute had seemed to be over in April when Russia lifted an import ban imposed in March.

American chicken companies will move immediately to...rebuild the trade

National Chicken Council

But US officials came to realise they had crowed too soon.

The Russian authorities raised further worries over residues of antibiotics in the meat, the use of genetically modified foodstuffs and the use of chlorine in meat processing.

Three senior members of the US administration were involved in negotiating the new vet certificates - Ms Veneman, Commerce Secretary Don Evans and Trade Representative Robert Zoellick.

"American chicken companies will move immediately to implement the agreement and rebuild the trade," George Watts, president of the National Chicken Council, said after the announcement late on Friday.

He said exports had been "subject to cut-offs and regulatory uncertainty".

Popular meal

Sales of US chicken to Russia were down 29% in the first half of this year compared to the same period of 2001.

Chicken pieces on sale in Russian market
"Bush legs" are a favourite Russian meal

Farmers in 38 US states sell chicken to Russia. Before the dispute, Russian imported more than a million tons of American chicken annually, or 8% of US output.

American chickens are cheaper than domestically produced birds, so Russian markets have been flooded with imported chicken pieces since the early 1990s.

The most popular cuts are chicken thighs, called "Bush legs" by Russians after the current president's father, who was in the White House at that time.

Shares in major US poultry producers rose in New York on Friday on news of the agreement.

But one major firm, Tyson Foods, suffered the embarrassment of having to recall 174 cases of frozen chicken meals because the labels failed to warn they contained ingredients which can cause allergies.

Shares in Tyson, the biggest producer of chicken, beef and pork in the world, closed up 13% on Friday.

Pork and beef farmers in the United States will benefit from the agreement with Russia.

They have seen prices driven down by the dispute as the US market has been swamped with unexportable chicken.

See also:

31 Mar 02 | Europe
22 Mar 02 | Business
11 Mar 02 | Business
10 Mar 02 | Europe
04 Mar 02 | Business
08 Mar 02 | Country profiles
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