Russia will gradually lift import bans on U.S. pork plants after Washington agreed to observe Russian food safety rules, according to Reuters. Russia had banned imports claiming antibiotic residues were found in the meat they were receiving. 

A new export verification program provides rules under which U.S. processors may prove the meat for export is free of the antibiotics prohibited by Russia. 

Sergei Dankvert, head of a Russian watchdog group, said Russia had agreed to reopen its market to pork from banned U.S. plants after Washington met Moscow's food safety demands.

"Now we will work together (with U.S. colleagues) to gradually lift all restrictions," Dankvert said by telephone.

Russia ranks among the United States' top five markets for pork. Moscow has taken a hard line with the United States on food safety, accusing U.S. exporters of violating Russian regulations. Some critics say the bans were politically motivated.

Dankvert said Moscow had warned the United States about the necessity to observe Russian meat safety rules more than a year ago. "Until recently, the U.S. side did not take any decision," he said. "So we started delisting U.S. plants we had found violating the rules. And by December, as they told us themselves, we have cut off 70 percent of their major plants."

"Today we exchanged signed documents, in which the U.S side agreed to observe the demands advanced by us," Dankvert said.

Source: Reuters, Brownfield Ag Network