September 22, 2008


Russia seeks to cut food, poultry imports by half in three years


Russia plans to slash food imports by half in up to three years, Russian Agriculture Minister Alexei Gordeyev said Saturday (September 19), the RIA Novosti news agency reported.


"We face the task of bringing food imports down to 20 percent of the market," Gordeyev said. "Today the ratio of national produce to foreign imports is 60 to 40."


Russia is also due to cut poultry imports by 200,000 tonnes a year, by October or November, Gordeyev said.


At the end of August, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Russia would suspend some of its agreements made during its bid to become a member of the World Trade Organization because they were unfair.


The suspension concerned red meat, poultry and manufacturing, he said.


Putin vowed to return to the agreements once Russia becomes a member of the Geneva-based body, according to Interfax news agency.


Even before Russia's military conflict with Georgia in August, Tblisi had voiced objections to Russian membership in 2006 after Moscow placed heavy restrictions on imports of Georgian goods such as wine and mineral water.


Georgia, as a WTO member, effectively holds a veto over Russia's admission - all such decisions must be unanimously agreed by all 153 member states.


On Thursday, US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice said in a speech that because of its Aug. 7 invasion of Georgia and other behaviour, "Russia's bid to join the World Trade Organization is now in question."

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