Russia said Friday that it has lowered its 2010 import quota for U.S. pork to 57,500 tons, down from 100,000 tons in 2009 according to Reuters. The country also announced it will reduce U.S. poultry imports to 600,000 tons, down from 750,000 tons in 2009.

Russia has been reducing pork imports from a number of U.S. pork plants in recent weeks citing banned antibiotic use.  “Russia's removal of many U.S. pork plants from its list of approved exporters is not based on acceptable scientific standards, and has had a devastating impact on the U.S. industry,” U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said on Friday.

U.S. political, diplomatic and technical officials are speaking with Russian counterparts to try to get the bans lifted, Kirk said. U.S. industry officials and analysts said they were disappointed in the quota cuts, but hoped Russia might raise the volumes during the year.

The news comes as U.S. livestock farmers and meat exporters try to recover from economic losses caused by high feed prices and weak global demand, and as Russia aims to become more self-sufficient in meat production.

U.S. Meat Export Federation spokesman Joe Schuele told Meatingplace that the.announcement was not unexpected "This is consistent with the information we have received and with the draft decree that was released in October. So this announcement is not surprising, though we were hopeful of a more positive final result for the U.S. pork industry."

U.S. exporters can ship pork to Russia outside the quota -- at higher tariff rates -- but that normally happens only when the economy is strong, said Schuele.

As 2010 progresses analysts believe there is a chance Russia will ease their import restrictions. "Fifty-seven percent of year-ago is not encouraging news" for pork, said Ron Plain, agricultural economist at the University of Missouri. "But they have been known to change their mind."

Source: Reuters, Meatingplace