Russia says Brazil could raise beef imports after additive ban

Thu Dec 13, 2012 2:56pm EST
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* Brazil may gain from Russia-U.S. wrangle over beef

* Russia tightens checks on ractopamine it banned in meat

* Brazil already supplies nearly half Russia beef imports

By Polina Devitt

MOSCOW/BRASILIA, Dec 13 (Reuters) - Brazil could end up increasing beef exports to Russia, its biggest buyer, after banning a controversial feed additive that promotes muscle growth in animals such as pigs and cattle, Russia's food safety watchdog said on Thursday.

Russia stepped up tests on U.S. and Canadian meat imports for traces of the additive, a beta blocker called ractopamine, on Monday, and demanded both nations certify their meat as ractopamine-free. U.S. exports alone to Russia are worth about $500 million.

Ractopamine is in a class of drugs known as beta inhibitors or blockers that counteract the effects of adrenaline on the nervous system and slow the heart rate. In livestock, it promotes muscle gain.

Brazil banned the use of ractopamine on Nov. 12 and eventually plans to have a split system in place enabling it to produce ractopamine-free meat for some buyers like Russia, and use it in meat for other destinations.

Russia's food safety watchdog, Rosselkhoznadzor, said it was satisfied with Brazil's assurances and said Brazil may manage to increase its current share of Russian beef imports, now around 43 percent, as a result. An increase would likely come at the expense of purchases of U.S. and Canadian meats while the testing and certification issue is resolved.   Continued...