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AGRICULTURE REPORT – May 7, 2002: Russia Lifts Ban on American Chickens - 2002-05-06

This is the VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT.

American agriculture is recovering from a Russian ban on chicken imports from the United States. The Russian government ended its month-long ban on American chicken and other poultry products last month. Yet the effects of the trade ban continue to affect American farmers and the American meat industry.

In recent weeks, prices for chicken and other poultry products dropped because of fewer exports. Many Americans bought more chicken, but spent less on beef and pork products. Because of this, beef and pork prices dropped, too. That is good news for most people, but bad news for farmers.

Russia is the largest market for American poultry exports. Last year, American producers earned more than six-hundred-million dollars from poultry exports to Russia.

Russian officials announced the import ban in early March. They said American poultry processing centers were not clean. They also objected to the poultry being fed antibiotic drugs and other chemicals.

American officials denied the poultry producers were in violation of Russian health rules. Some trade experts suspect the ban had little to do with chicken or poultry products. They said Russian officials were angry about a decision by President Bush to order high taxes on steel imports entering the United States. Steel is a major Russian export.

For weeks, American officials negotiated with the Russian government to end the ban on poultry imports. Mister Bush even called Russian leader Vladimir Putin to urge an end to the dispute. In late March, the two sides signed an agreement. Russia agreed to end the ban on imports from all but four American states. Russian inspectors reportedly found diseased chickens from those states.

As part of the agreement, American agricultural officials now require poultry producers to have a new health permit. They also require new methods to test chickens for salmonella bacteria. Salmonella has been linked to food poisoning.

The day after the ban ended, Russia’s Agriculture Ministry announced that Russian companies must have a new permit if they plan to import American poultry. American officials warned that this requirement could delay the recovery of American poultry sales.

This VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT was written by George Grow.