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Sunday, 10 March, 2002, 06:19 GMT
Russia's US chicken ban in force
"Bush legs": Popular in Russia since the early 1990s
A Russian ban on poultry from the United States which Moscow has imposed because of safety fears is to take effect on Sunday.

The Russian Government says the US uses too many antibiotics in chicken-rearing, and also cited cases of salmonella found in recent imports.

It is well known that the massive import of US chicken meat which has been farmed using who knows what has killed off Russian poultry farming

State Duma official Dmitry Rogozin
The US says the fears are groundless, and a delegation from Washington has gone to Moscow to try to resolve the row.

Russia is the world's largest importer of American chickens, buying as much as $800m worth every year.

Correspondents say there is speculation that the ban could be connected to Washington's decision last week to impose 30% tariffs on all steel imports, though both governments have denied this.

Russia, one of the main suppliers for steel to the US, could lose up to $1.5bn over the next two years under the new measures.

'Bush legs'

The Russian Agriculture Ministry said last week it was not satisfied with Washington's answer to an inquiry about the use of disinfectants and stimulators in poultry processing.

Russian market
Russians buy more than a million tons of US poultry yearly
The ministry said US importers had been repeatedly bringing in poultry meat without a proper licence, with incorrect package markings or without safety certificates.

US Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman and Trade Representative Robert Zoellick replied in a joint statement that they knew of no reason that could justify such a ban, which was "extremely damaging".

Russia is a valuable market for the US, with 1.1 million tons of poultry worth $600m exported to the country last year alone.

In fact poultry constitutes 20% of all US exports to Russia.

Cheap US imports, named "Bush legs" after then-President George Bush Senior, flooded the market in the early 1990s and have remained popular.

'Chicken war'

But some Russian politicians are critical of the imports' impact on the domestic market.

"It is well known that the massive import of US chicken meat which has been farmed using who knows what has killed off Russian poultry farming," Dmitry Rogozin, head of the State Duma foreign affairs committee, told AFP news agency.

Russia, now in talks on possible membership of the World Trade Organisation, said recently it planned to restrict import by introducing higher tariffs and by setting quotas.

Washington expressed "strong concern" over the move and arranged to send a group of experts to Moscow to stop what has been already dubbed a "chicken war".

But Russian Deputy Agriculture Minister Sergey Dankvert said it was "premature" to say the problem would be solved in one or two days.

See also:

01 Mar 02 | Business
US steel workers stage mass protest
08 Feb 02 | Business
Russian juice firm wins US listing
18 Dec 01 | Americas
Analysis: US divisions over Russia
30 Mar 01 | Media reports
Russia facing meat crisis
04 Jun 01 | Sci/Tech
Fears over drugs in poultry
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