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Chicken Squabble May End in Turkey

Turkey may take the place of the United States as Russia's main poultry supplier if a trade dispute with Washington isn't settled, Russia's sanitary watchdog said Monday.

Turkey earlier proposed exporting poultry to Russia and was given a draft certificate outlining a number of measures that must be taken in order to get the green light, said Alexei Alexeyenko, a spokesman for the Federal Veterinary and Phytosanitary Inspection Service.

"[The Turkish side] will only be able to begin exports once they come into full compliance and create a functioning system of pre-export control," he told Interfax on Monday, adding that Russia has not yet imported Turkish poultry.

Turkey has had problems with the Russian veterinary authorities in the past. In June 2008, the agricultural watchdog put a monthlong ban on Turkish fruit and vegetable imports, which was lifted after the countries came to an agreement on sanitary rules.

Alexeyenko said that in the previous standoff, Turkey set up a quality control system and established a network of special labs to inspect its exports to Russia. He added that if similar measures are taken this time, Turkey could become a supplier.

Alexeyenko did not comment on the volume of possible supplies, but Turkish Agriculture Minister Mehdi Eker said poultry shipments to Russia could be as high as 500,000 metric tons a year, or one-third of the country's production volume, Turkish newspaper Yeni Asir reported.

The amount comes close to the 600,000 metric tons that Russia planned to buy from the United States in 2010, before new sanitary measures came into force Jan. 1. Starting this year, the government cut the allowable chlorine limit on imported poultry, effectively banning most supplies from the United States where chlorine is the primary disinfectant.

Russia plans to import a total of 780,000 metric tons of poultry in 2010 and gradually decrease imports to 550,000 metric tons by 2012, according to a decree signed by the government in December.

The Russian Poultry Union, a nonprofit organization representing Russian poultry producers and suppliers, has not yet heard about any specific plans to import chicken from Turkey, union head Galina Bobyleva said.

"The Agriculture Ministry has not contacted us regarding the possible imports of poultry from Turkey, which they normally do," she said.

The government is currently considering a number of options "to supply poultry from the neighboring countries," she said, but wouldn't specify which countries exactly. No final decision has been made, she said.


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