Russian agriculture officials said Tuesday that the country is temporarily banning rice imports due to concerns about Asian and U.S. rice. The country stopped issuing new permits for rice imports as of Monday, and Agriculture Ministry spokesman Alexei Alexeyev says it will invalidate previously accepted permits.
The Russian Agriculture Ministry said in a statement that Russian authorities have found genetically modified U.S. long-grain rice which is below consumer standards there, and that officials have found 2,000 tons of tainted rice from India, Pakistan, Thailand, China, and Egypt.
Alexeyev told the Associated Press that the purpose of the ban is to "simply (get) things in order."
"I think this will benefit all producers and by making the rules of the game more clear -- that consumer safety regulations must be followed," he says.
Some critics say Russia may be acting in order to boost domestic producers against foreign ones or as a way of exerting political pressure on countries affected by the ban, as it seems to have done in previous bans on Georgian and Moldovan products.
Russians consume 650,000 tons of rice every year, half of it imported.