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Russia to Be Flexible on U.S. Poultry
April 4, 2003

WASHINGTON (AP) - Russian officials have agreed to be more flexible in assessing the health and safety conditions at American poultry plants that export chickens to Russia, Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said Friday.

Agriculture Department officials said the Russians will no longer require U.S. processors to meet health and safety standards more stringent than those governing Russian poultry plants.

``This is an important breakthrough involving our largest poultry export market,'' Veneman said.

Exports of U.S. chickens to Russia fell from $586 million in 2001 to $494 million last year, largely because of an embargo Russia imposed when its inspectors determined that too many American plants failed to meet their safety standards.

The embargo lasted five months, until the end of summer, but the Russians still refused to certify many U.S. plants, demanding upgrades including walls to separate slaughtering and processing operations.

U.S. agriculture officials departed Friday from Russia after agreeing on the outlines of an accord recognizing the differences in how plants in the two countries operate and requiring exported U.S. chickens to meet Russian poultry standards.

Toby Moore, a spokesman for the U.S. Poultry and Egg Export Council, said the agreement is a good sign - but added that Russian certification of Americans plants is still not certain.

``Russia is going to send over a technical team in about two weeks from the Ministry of Health, and we're hopeful that we can start inspections,'' he said.

Russia had planned to complete inspections of U.S. plants by June 1, but U.S. officials said that deadline will likely be extended.

Industry leaders in the United States are also worried because Russia is now considering a quota on chicken imports, said Richard Lobb, a spokesman for the National Chicken Council.

On the Net: USDA Foreign Agricultural Services: http://www.fas.usda.gov

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