Russia slaps ban on New Zealand beef exports following contamination claim
Russia has followed through with its threat to temporarily ban New Zealand beef products because they have been allegedly contaminated.
New Zealand officials are "engaging" with their counterparts in Russia to unravel what is behind the ban, slapped on exports on Monday.
Last week Russia's agriculture safety watchdog claimed to have found the feed additive ractopamine in some samples, but New Zealand politicians and officials have pointed out that the substance is prohibited in beef and sheepmeat, and has never been detected in New Zealand products.
In 2016 Russia imported $24.6 million worth of New Zealand red meat, the majority of it beef livers ($9.5m), chilled beef ($1.9m), beef hearts ($1.6m) and frozen beef ($1.4m).
One industry insider described the ban as "sabre rattling" and possibly an obstruction to trade.
Ractopamine is an additive which promotes leanness and muscle growth and can be fed to pork only.
Russian authorities had also threatened a temporary suspension of fish exports from New Zealand because excessive rates of mercury had been detected, but so far no ban has taken place.
A Seafood New Zealand spokesman said until it had formal government notification of any action, it was difficult to respond to the claims.
Seafood exports to Russia were worth $16.2 million in 2015, including a range of fish and shellfish species.
Meanwhile NZ First leader Winston Peters said Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy had seriously "dropped the ball" on Russian beef exports.
"Mr Guy is in no position to play diplomat having said in Parliament that it 'does not make sense' to negotiate a free-trade agreement with Russia.
Peters said New Zealand should be trading more with Russia, which was the world's number two dairy importer and this year, was set to become the world's number two beef importer.