Russia says cheese, softens position on dairy imports from India

Softening its initial position that only dairy plants with over 1,000 cattle may export hard cheese to the country, Russia has now said it is ready to reconsider the condition if India gives a comprehensive report on how its safety concerns would be addressed.

“We are happy that Russia has responded positively to our request. We have already sent the required report to our embassy in Moscow and it will be shared with the Russian authorities,” a government official told BusinessLine here.

The Export Inspection Council of India (EIC), a government body for quality control and inspection of items for export, has prepared the report.

It specifies the measures that will be taken to ensure that dairy products exported to Russia are free of contaminants and disease-causing germs.

Only 2 qualified producers

Only two Indian producers of hard cheese — Parag Milk Foods and Shreiber Dynamix Diaries — had qualified to export to Russia when it allowed entry of dairy products from India in April under stringent conditions.

The Commerce Ministry had refused to formalise the draft agreement on dairy exports, insisting that a provision be added that there would be a review of the condition on minimum cattle ownership six months later. Moscow did not respond to that plea for a while, resulting in no sales even from the qualified exporters.

Big opportunity

“Since the Russians finally responded positively to our request when our delegation went to Moscow for talks on a free trade pact this month, we are hopeful that exports can start soon,” the official said.

Russia’s annual imports of food items from Western countries are worth about $40 billion. Due to the Ukrainian crisis it has banned imports of most food products from that region, and New Delhi has been making efforts to grab a part of the business.

Earlier, Russia had insisted that dairies supplying cheese should have captive cattle farms. This would help them get certificates from authorised veterinarians specifying that the cattle have been properly vaccinated and are free of foot-and-mouth disease, tuberculosis, brucellosis and leukaemia.

India suggested that instead of insisting on a captive farm, clusters of villages from where dairy plants source their milk can be identified. Veterinarians can then be assigned for specific clusters, and give the requisite certificates.

Source: The Hindu Bussiness Line

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