Russia plans to increase beef exports from Latin America

By Eugene Vorotnikov and Manuel Rueda

- Last updated on GMT

Moscow is hopeful South America's smaller meat producers can fill the void left by Brazil, EU and the US
Moscow is hopeful South America's smaller meat producers can fill the void left by Brazil, EU and the US

Related tags: Beef exports, Brazil, Argentina, Russia

The Russian government plans to significantly increase beef exports from Latin America (except Brazil) to compensate for potential domestic supply shortages created by the existing ban on meat imports from Western countries and a recent ban on Brazilian beef.

The Russian Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance (Rosselkhoznadzor) lifted a ban on 25 December 2017 on the imports of beef from Colombia, which had been imposed last June because of outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD). 

According to a spokesman from Russia’s Ministry of Agriculture, the government is targeting imports of up to 10,000 tonnes (t) of beef from Colombia in the first half of the current year. At the same time, said the official, following the ban on Brazilian supplies, the ministry wants to increase beef imports from Argentina.

The spokesperson said: “Argentina was one of the first Latin American countries, which expressed its intention to increase meat supplies to Russia after the beginning of the sanctions wars between Russia and West.”

According to data from the agriculture ministry, 10 years ago, Argentina sold 150,000t of beef annually to Russia. However, these volumes declined significantly in the early years of this decade.

Mario Ravettino, president of the Argentina Consortium of Meat Exporters (ABC - Consorcio de Exportadores de Carnes Argentinas) said on 20 December at an ABC meeting that negotiations with Russia on the delivery of premium-quality chilled beef were already underway. He predicted significant supplies would be sent to Russia in the coming months.

However, Argentina may not be able to export volumes rivalling those seen in the past, given that its national herd has contracted in recent years following restrictions on beef exports to limit inflation in domestic beef prices, imposed by the former left-wing Argentine government of past-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. These restrictions have been removed by the centre-right government of President Mauricio Macri, which came to power in 2015.

Colombia's beef industry has welcomed Russia's decision to once again import its beef. Almost 30% of Colombia's beef exports went to Russia in 2017 in the first six months of this year. “Colombia hasn't been able to export beef to countries it has free trade agreements with, like the US and the Mercosur block, due to [tough] sanitary regulations”​, not linked to the outbreak, said Oscar Cubillos, the chief planning officer at FEDEGAN (Federación Colombiana de Ganaderos), Colombia's national cattle ranchers association.

“The decision to open up imports again gives us hope,” ​he said. “But it will also take time to restore confidence in Colombian beef.”​ Colombian beef exports to Russia rose from just 146t in 2011 to 5,600t in 2017, according to FEDEGAN.  But exports stopped in the last six months of 2017, after the FMD outbreak.

However, on 11 December, Colombia was certified FMD-free by the International Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), except for Arauca state, where the outbreak originated. Cubillos said Colombia should be able to meet Russia's demand for 10,000t of Colombian beef annually – it currently produces 930,000t of beef per year.

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