(Adds context, comments from ABPA)
By Polina Devitt and Ana Mano
MOSCOW/SÃO PAULO, Oct 31 (Reuters) - Russia’s agriculture safety watchdog said on Wednesday it would allow imports of beef and pork from nine Brazilian plants to resume from Thursday, ending an 11-month ban triggered by food safety concerns.
Russia’s Rosselkhoznadzor had placed temporary restrictions on imports of pork and beef products from Brazil in December 2017 after it said it found ractopamine in some shipments, a feed additive that is permitted in Brazil but banned in Russia.
The decision could boost Brazil’s pork exports by 20,000 tonnes this year to 640,000 tonnes in total, Brazilian meat industry group ABPA said.
The plants now cleared for shipments to Russia - once the destination for 40 percent of Brazil’s pork exports - include one operated by Minerva Foods and another by leading privately-owned food processor Aurora Alimentos.
A list on the food safety agency’s website shows 32 Brazilian plants that continue to be restricted from exporting meat products to Russia.
Moscow has not discussed the possibility of expanding the decision to other plants yet, the watchdog said.
“The measure is positive even though it only involves a small number of plants,” Ricardo Fantin, ABPA’s executive director, said in an interview on Wednesday. Other companies would have to wait for more information from Russian authorities to see if they would be cleared in the future, he added.
Only plants that process meat from animals that have not been given any ractopamine were allowed to resume sales to Russia, Fantin said.
Ractopamine allows livestock to grow at a faster rate while consuming less feed. It is banned in countries including Russia and the European Union, but allowed in others, including the United States.
“The presence of ractopamine in Brazilian products indicates a glitch in the entire veterinary control system,” Rosselkhoznadzor told Reuters in an email earlier this week.
The Russian agency said on Wednesday it decided to lift the restrictions after Brazil provided guarantees over its products.
Shares in Minerva, one of Brazil’s largest meatpackers, rose 8 percent to 5.48 reais.
BRF SA, Brazil’s largest pork processor by capacity, ended 3.45 percent higher at 21.90 reais although its plants still show up on the Russian watchdog’s website as “temporarily restricted.”
Minerva, Aurora Alimentos and BRF did not immediately reply to requests for comment. (Reporting by Polina Devitt in Moscow and Ana Mano in São Paulo; editing by Leslie Adler and Rosalba O’Brien)