RUSSIA has fired a warning shot across the bows of local meat exporters after detecting traces of growth hormone in Australian beef.
Russian authorities have advised the Department of Agriculture that residues of the hormonal growth promotant, trenbolone, were detected in several consignments of beef.
"The Department has reiterated Russia's requirements to meat exporters and moved quickly to strengthen its certification requirements in this regard," a spokesman said.
"The Department will only issue certification for beef exports to the Russian Federation where exporters have implemented arrangements to ensure cattle processed have not been treated with trenbolone."
"Australia recognises Russia's right to determine its import requirements and is committed to meeting these requirements.
Bans on growth hormones, especially the beta agonist class, have been a boon to Australian beef exporters in markets like Russia and China, which have locked out beef from the United States because of hormone use and past cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).
Most markets accept beef produced from animals treated with trenbolone, but the Russian Federation is an exception.
Russia and other Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries imported about 30,000 tonnes of Australian beef in the 11 months to November.
Increasing affluence in the region, and the absence of the United States, is helping to push demand for Australian beef up the value chain, away from the commodity beef towards a higher percentage of steakhouse-style cuts.
"The Russians are saying that these are our requirements, this is what you need to focus on, and please focus on it immediately," said Australian Processor Council president David Larkin.
The issue should not be blown out of proportion, he added. "It's one of those sovereign trading things you go through occasionally."