One third of Russia’s meat requirements is sourced from foreign countries, and the authorities have had to make some difficult decisions recently as to whether import bans would be implemented on certain countries’ meat in light of the BSE crisis and the spread of foot and mouth disease.

The Russian Meat Union explained that Russia is not as rich as countries such as US or Canada, which swiftly banned all EU meat this week; establishing border controls, policing suspect supplies of meat, and introducing additional emergency production capacity within its domestic meat industry.

According to medical data that highlights the minimum necessary meat consumption per person, then Russia needs to import 4m tonnes of meat annually. As another indicator, consumer purchasing power demands at least 1.5-2m tonnes of meat every year.

The situation is not all bad news, according to Russian veterinary service experts, who point out that the country has always carefully vaccinated against foot and mouth disease because its eastern regions border with high-risk countries.

Chief veterinary inspector for the Irkutsk Region, Nikolay Dzyubin, has banned import of cattle, meat and dairy products from Mongolia and the Russian territories neighbouring on it for fear of FMD, but others point out that wild animals could carry the disease along their migratory route into Russia across the Mongolian border, and the country’s plethora of unregulated meat markets are ideal breeding grounds for disease.

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Also, a massive 40% of the meat on Russia’s market has been illegally imported, according to council chairman at the Meat Union, Iosif Rogov.

Many market traders are pushing the authorities to source meat from different countries; one group of graders is particularly interested in initiating imports from Australia.

To read about the health minister’s guarantee that Russian meat is safe, click here.

To read about the recent surge in interest and demand in Australia’s meat market, click here.