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Putin Wants Poultry Supply Secure by ?€™15

Russia may stop importing poultry by 2015, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Thursday, backing a ban imposed on U.S. chicken imports at the beginning of the year.

“We haven’t seen any readiness to meet Russian standards on the part of some of our partners, mainly the companies from the United States,” he said, chairing a meeting on poultry production in Snegirevka, in the Leningrad region. “If our foreign suppliers are unable or reluctant to meet our security requirements, we will use other sources,” he said, Interfax reported.

Gennady Onishchenko, head of the Federal Consumer Protection Service, signed a decree in June 2008 outlawing the use of chlorine in poultry treatments used by some U.S. producers, but he later pushed back the measure’s starting date to Jan. 1, 2010.

Putin rejected suggestions that the ban was political in nature, saying Russia had simply adopted regulations that were already in effect throughout the European Union.

“One shouldn’t look for political background in this case, God forbid, no political background here!” he said, adding that Russia would gradually replace imported poultry with domestic production and could halt poultry imports altogether in “four or five years.”

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

The government cut the United States’ poultry quota for 2010 to 600,000 metric tons, or 20 percent of the poultry market, last December, down from 750,000 metric tons in 2009.

Putin also accused poultry wholesalers of spreading fears of increased prices and said producers should have invested more in domestic production.

If the proper investment had been made, “retailers that deal with [poultry] imports from abroad wouldn’t find it necessary to scare citizens with an unjustified price increase,” he said.

Wholesale prices for U.S.-imported poultry jumped to 70 rubles ($2.4) per kilogram since the ban was introduced Jan. 1, up 20 percent from 58 rubles at the end of December, Yevgeny Kogan, chairman of the Food Trade Group, which supplies meat and produce to supermarkets, said Wednesday.

“Poultry used to be the cheapest protein in Russia, consumed mostly by low-income individuals. So any price increase could be harmful for sales volumes,” Kogan told Interfax. He added that domestic poultry prices had increased 15 percent since the beginning of the year.

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