On 1 July, the Russian Government ordered that the entire lifecycle of meat products must be input into the Mercury unified information system. Within the system, information should be input at all stages of the supply chain - for example, when live animals leave a farm to the slaughterhouse, or when meat leaves a processing plant.
The introduction of this system was designed to improve veterinary and sanitary controls on the Russian market, ensuring that no meat products without the proper electronic certificate, or with gaps in supply chain, could hit grocery shelves, according to the Russian veterinary watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor, which was appointed to operate the new system.
However, not every company in Russia has managed to connect to Mercury. Some small-scale farms have reported several problems with the new requirements, and difficulties in completing the bureaucratic procedure, while some farms located in remote rural regions of the country have no physical ability to be connected to the system.
The most expensive beef
Ilya Pinsky, chairman of the Association of Trade Companies of St Petersburg, commented that not all small-scale farmers had managed to register on the new system, with the result that some retailers had allowed their suppliers to bypass the system to trade, even though this practice is illegal and could result in fines for the meat companies concerned.
Alisa Ivanova, manager of Russian restaurant company Beer Family Project, told local news outlet Delovoi Peterburg that while not every supplier had managed to connect to Mercury, the price for meat from authorised suppliers had increased significantly. According to Ivanova, the price for premium beef cuts, in particular, jumped twofold from RUB790 ($12) to RUB1,800 ($25) per kg, as suppliers were perfectly aware there was no alternative to their products.
A spokesperson for a Russian retailer, who wished to not be named, told GlobalMeatNews that the temporary disruptions in meat supply happened during the first few days of July. He explained that for some meats, a temporary rise in prices was seen, due to only 40% of suppliers registering in the system in some regions. The long-term impact, however, would not be as noticeable, since most suppliers would be able to register in the system eventually he said.
No meat fraud and smuggling
Meanwhile, food companies in Russia praised the new system, as it is expected to bring order to the meat market, reducing fraud and helping to eliminate smuggling from neighbouring countries.
Olga Vladimirova, spokesperson for Russian food company Baltiisky Bereg, explained that, with the new system in operation, it would be impossible “to mix horsemeat into the beef sausages”, for example. She added that movement of products from regions subject to quarantine, due to various livestock diseases, would be also impossible.