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* 600,000-tonne oilseed plant to accept Canada canola * Russia to restrict meat imports from large Canadian packers By Rod Nickel April 16 (Reuters) - China has softened its 3-year-old import restrictions on Canadian canola, while Russia is set to erect barriers to some of Canada's biggest meat-packing plants, Canadian Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said on Tuesday. China approved one additional oilseed crushing plant, the 600,000-tonne CNOOC-Biolux plant in Nantong, Jiangsu province, to accept shipments of Canadian canola seed, a crop used to produce vegetable oil and animal feed. It continues to restrict imports of Canadian canola due to concerns about the fungal disease blackleg. China's latest move is significant because it is the first Chinese plant near the country's domestic rapeseed crops - a close relative of canola - to accept Canadian canola since 2009, Ritz said in an interview with Reuters. "We're beginning to see a change in their methodology and their ability to absorb Canadian canola without that fear of the blackleg," Ritz said. China granted the access on a trial basis, which Ritz said is normal, while the two governments and industries work out a long-term solution. Canada has now been granted access to three additional Chinese plants over the last few months, giving it additional access to a combined 1 million tonnes of crushing capacity, said Patti Miller, president of the Canola Council of Canada. In total, 11 Chinese oilseed crushing facilities with a combined annual capacity of 5.5 million tonnes now accept Canadian canola. Canada is the world's biggest producer of canola, called rapeseed in some countries, just ahead of China. China's move comes a few weeks after it agreed to allow imports of Australian canola under specific conditions. ICE Canada canola futures continued to trade higher after news of the additional Chinese access. RUSSIA TO IMPOSE MEAT RESTRICTIONS While Canada gains canola access to China, it is scheduled to see pork and beef shipments to Russia shrink starting on Wednesday. A post on Russia's veterinary and phytosanitary service (VPSS) website (www.fsvps.ru) said restrictions on meat imports are scheduled to go into place against Canada's biggest meat packers, Cargill Ltd, JBS, Maple Leaf Foods and Olymel LP. Russia has said it is concerned about use of the livestock feed additive ractopamine, and has already banned U.S. beef, pork and turkey and some meat shipments from Mexico. The VPSS has a lengthy list on its website of restrictions scheduled for some Canadian packers, as well as import approvals for other, mostly smaller Canadian plants. "That's their list and we'll continue to work with them to expand that list to make it as full as possible," Ritz said. He did not rule out seeking retaliatory trade measures against Russia, a fellow World Trade Organization member, following Ritz's scheduled visit to Russia later this spring. "We're waiting to see to what extent they press this, and at some point we'll have to have that assessment done," he said. "We'll keep our options open until that point." The three largest Canadian beef plants - Cargill's plants at High River, Alberta, and Guelph, Ontario, and the JBS plant at Brooks, Alberta - face restrictions starting April 17, according to the VPSS site. Russia will accept pork from Maple Leaf Foods Inc's plants in Lethbridge, Alberta, and Winnipeg, Manitoba, but is restricting access starting April 17 for the company's flagship facility in Brandon, Manitoba. Olymel LP, the other major Canadian pork processor, can ship to Russia from its Red Deer, Alberta, plant and several other facilities, with restrictions scheduled for its St-Hyacinthe, Quebec, plant. Canada is the world's third-largest pork exporter and the sixth-largest shipper of beef and veal. Russia is one of the world's two biggest importers of beef and veal with the United States and the second-biggest pork importer after Japan, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data.