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Russia set to ban US corn, soybean imports

Russia’s agriculture watchdog said Wednesday that it is going to ban imports of corn and soy from the United States starting next week over “unsafe” and “infected” product.

Russian officials held a phone conversation with their US counterparts Tuesday during which “expressing serious concern over continued shipments of grain product that is unsafe…” the Rosselkhoznadzor agency said in a statement.

Agency chief Sergei Dankvert then “ordered the preparation of documents to ban corn and soy shipments starting on February 15,” Interfax news agency quoted a Rosselkhoznadzor spokesman as saying.

Rosselkhoznadzor said that there have been increasing instances of dry rot disease in corn shipments over the past two years, which is “evidence of ineffective system of control” of US safety standards for exports to Russia.

Soy shipments from the Unite States meanwhile regularly contain “seeds of weed plants quarantined in Russia,” the watchdog said.

Speaking on television Wednesday evening, Russia’s agriculture minister Alexander Tkachev denied that any import bans are politically motivated and said that Russia could instead buy soy beans from Latin America.

Grain is one of few agricultural products that has not been impacted by Moscow’s 2014 embargo of Western food, a counter-measure against sanctions over Ukraine.

Russia is a major grain exporter but rests dependent on imported soy and limited amounts of corn, mainly for seed or to produce popcorn.