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North Carolina Pork Had Been Surging In Russia... Not Anymore

Pigs on a Farm
Eric Mennel

Last year, according the State Department of Agriculture, North Carolina exported about $3.7 million in meat products to Russia. So far this year, that number has increased ten-fold, to $40 million. Now that Russia has banned the import of American beef, pork, and poultry products, that surge will come to a halt.

Russia released the list Thursday for what Western products it will no longer allow into the country. The move comes in retaliation for U.S. and European sanctions leveled against Russia as a consequence for its interventions in Ukraine.

The news is not a death knell for meat producers (nearly all of North Carolina's exports to Russia come from the two Smithfield plants in Clinton and Tar Heel). But it will likely mean lost revenue.

"The world demand for meat is greater than the supply," said Peter Thornton, Assistant Director of the NC Department of Agriculture's International Trade Office. "Yes, you will find a different market. But each time you lose a buyer you lose one more person who will influence the price in a positive direction. So that will have an impact. Hopefully it's only slight. But it's nothing you ever want to see."

More statistically significant for the U.S. as a whole is the loss of poultry exports. North Carolina has sent about $3 million in poultry products to Russia this year, according to Thornton. That's about 1% of all U.S. poultry exports to Russia. But those numbers are down, likely because of Russia's increased attempt to develop a domestic poultry industry.

All in all, the U.S. exported $1.2 billion to Russia in agricultural products in 2013.  That's less than 1% of total U.S. agricultural exports. So, small potatos, relatively speaking.

Stories, features and more by WUNC News Staff. Also, features and commentary not by any one reporter.
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