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Russian Agriculture Ministry suggests cutting poultry imports in 2009

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Russia's Agriculture Ministry has suggested cutting the imports of poultry, delivered mainly from the United States, in 2009 by 17%.
KISLOVODSK, September 6 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's Agriculture Ministry has suggested cutting the imports of poultry, delivered mainly from the United States, in 2009 by 17%.

"We suggest reducing import quotas on poultry meat next year by 200,000 tons," Minister Alexei Gordeyev said Saturday during a visit to a fishing farm in south Russia.

The U.S. is Russia's largest poultry supplier. The country has supplied 870,000 metric tons of the 1.2-million-metric-ton poultry quota set by Russia for 2008.

Russia banned poultry imports from 19 U.S. producers on September 1, sparking alarm in Washington amid rising tensions over the recent Georgia conflict.

Agricultural regulator Rosselkhoznadzor had announced the ban in late August, saying the companies' products failed to meet sanitary standards.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin had earlier mentioned the ban, but insisted it had nothing to do with ongoing political tensions with the U.S. government, which has strongly criticized Russia for its military operation in Georgia and recognition of Georgian rebel regions.

Vice presidential candidate Joseph Biden, who heads the Senate's Foreign Relations Committee, said earlier he was alarmed by Russia's ban, and urged the U.S. government to take response measures.

Putin's statement on the ban came after the U.S. said it might scrap a civil nuclear deal with Russia as punishment for its military operation, which followed Georgia's August 8 attack on breakaway South Ossetia, and for its recognition of the province, along with breakaway Abkhazia.

Rosselkhoznadzor said the decision was a result of a joint Russian-U.S. inspection of poultry firms carried out in late July and early August.

"The inspection also showed that many companies had not taken measures to remove flaws revealed during previous checks," the regulator said in a news release.

Around 120 companies remain on the list of suppliers to Russia, but the regulator said 29 other firms face the same ban unless they raise their standards.

Russia has imposed several temporary bans on pork and poultry from various U.S. producers in recent years. Up to late 2006, the issue was a major stumbling block in bilateral negotiations on Russia's bid to join the World Trade Organization.

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