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EU food aid to Russia not hit by dioxin scare

Reuters Story - June 07, 1999 07:03

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By Sebastian Alison

MOSCOW, June 7 (Reuters) - Food aid deliveries from the European Union to Russia, including meat supplies, are arriving as normal and there has been no impact so far from the Belgian dioxin scare, a senior EU official in Moscow said on Monday.

"Trucks are crossing the border every other hour. There's 100,000 tonnes of beef to be delivered and the same amount of pork," Gilbert Dubois, charge d'affaires at the European Commission's Moscow delegation, told Reuters.

"For the moment there is no impact. To my knowledge there is nothing in our food aid for the moment which could have been tainted by dioxin," he said.

Belgium announced on May 27 that carcinogenic dioxins had been found in fats used to make animal feed, since when several countries have banned imports of Belgian foods.

The EU is sending Russia $500 million of food aid to counter the impact of a poor grain harvest and rouble devaluation last year, which left Russia unable to pay for basic food imports.

But Dubois said most of the aid consisted of cereals and rice, adding that most of the meat came from Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands and France. He said very little meat, and possibly none at all, was sourced from Belgium.

Interfax news agency quoted Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Shcherbak as saying on Monday that Russia should introduce stricter veterinary controls on all food imports, including aid shipments, from all EU countries following the dioxin scandal.

"If Mr Shcherbak, whom we respect very much, says he would like stricter controls, then we respect what he says. It's perfectly normal that the Russian authorities should take care of the health of the Russian people," Dubois said.

But he said no official request had been received, adding that the aid was already covered by stringent health controls.

Dubois said food aid deliveries to Russia slowed down around two weeks ago while the two sides finalised details of the pricing mechanism for selling the food in Russia.

But since then supplies had picked up again and the third, fourth and fifth tranches of the five originally planned were now being auctioned.

All deliveries must be completed by the end of August under the EU's financial rules, he added.

Shcherbak was First Deputy Agriculture Minister until last month, when he was promoted to his current post. In his old job he led all day-to-day negotiations with the EU and the United States, also an aid donor, on detailed terms of the programmes.

Dubois said responsibility for that had now passed to First Deputy Agriculture Minister Alexei Gordeev. The next regular meeting between Russian and EU food aid negotiators is due on Thursday

Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.

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