Russia plans to ban meat imports from most Canadian and Mexican suppliers from April 8 over concerns about the use of the feed additive ractopamine, Russia's veterinary and phytosanitary service (VPSS) said on Friday.
"More than 50 percent of Canadian companies will be excluded from the list of suppliers," VPSS spokesman Alexei Alekseenko said.
Russia also plans to ban about 80 percent of Mexican meat importers from April 8, Interfax news agency reported earlier on Friday, citing the head of VPSS Sergei Dankvert.
Canada was the largest pork supplier to Russia and accounted for 25 percent of its imports in 2012, Sergei Yushin, head of Russia's National Meat Association, told Reuters. About 5 percent of imported beef came to Russia from Mexico last year.
VPSS's list of Canadian pork suppliers, published on its website www.fsvps.ru, includes about 88 companies, while the list for Mexico includes 20 names. A VPSS spokesman could not comment on whether these lists had been updated.
Used as a growth stimulant to make meat leaner, ractopamine is banned in some countries over concerns that residues could remain in the meat and cause health problems, despite scientific evidence indicating that it is safe.
Since December, Russia has only accepted meat from Canadian livestock that were never fed ractopamine - which was already a tiny portion of the cattle herd, said John Masswohl, director of government and international relations at the Canadian Cattlemen's Association.
Now Russia will only accept meat from ractopamine-free animals that are processed in Canadian plants that do not also handle livestock that have been raised on the stimulant - and such plants do not exist in Canada, Masswohl said.
"You're taking a very bad existing situation, which limits (beef) trade to almost nothing, and making it nothing."
Cargill Ltd and JBS USA Holdings Inc, are the biggest beef packers in Canada.
"Our government is disappointed that despite our collaborative efforts, the Russian government is moving forward with this measure not rooted in science," said Canadian Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, in an email statement to Reuters. "We continue to work aggressively with Canadian industry to restore their access into the important Russian market."
Russia is a small, but fast-growing market for Canadian beef, worth about C$15 million ($14.7 million) in 2011. Russia is the third-largest market for Canadian pork, worth about C$500 million a year, said Jacques Pomerleau, executive director of Canada Pork International, a marketing promotion agency.