Thad Lively, U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) senior president for trade access, recently returned from Russia, where he attended the World Food Moscow food exhibition and met with trade officials and meat industry leaders to discuss the current business climate for U.S. pork and beef.

Lively says Russia’s demand for U.S. meat is very strong, as indicated by this year’s export statistics: Through August, U.S. beef exports to Russia were 8 percent ahead of last year’s record pace in volume (nearly 117 million pounds) and 31 percent higher in value ($214 million). Pork exports were 30 percent higher than a year ago in volume (140.4 million pounds) and up 22 percent in value ($183 million).

Russia has invested heavily in its pork industry, with the stated objective of reaching self-sufficiency in pork production in the near future. But Lively notes that controlling African swine fever (ASF) is one of many challenges making this an elusive goal.

Lively adds that Russia made significant market access concessions for U.S. beef and pork as part of its negotiations to join the World Trade Organization (WTO), including a larger tariff rate quota for U.S. beef muscle cuts and reduced duty rates for pork imports. But he says WTO membership has not eliminated all barriers facing U.S. meat as it enters Russia, so significant work continues on approval of U.S. processing plants, consistent application of veterinary standards and other key issues.