Wholesale poultry prices are up 20% in Russia since January 1, when new restrictions on chlorinated water in processing effectively barred U.S. imports, according to a supermarket distributor.

Yevgeny Kogan, chairman of a perishables distributor called the Food Trade Group, told The Moscow Times that prices rose from 58 rubles per kilogram at the end of December to 70 rubles in mid-January.

At the same time, domestic poultry prices have risen 15%, Kogan said. “Poultry used to be the cheapest protein in Russia, consumed mostly by low-income individuals. So any price increase could be harmful for sales volumes,” he added.

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Putin has said that wholesalers are contributing to a price panic, The Moscow Times reported.

Until January, U.S. imports made up about 22% of Russia’s poultry supply, according to the newspaper, and Russia had been the largest export market for U.S. poultry. The Russian government has slashed the U.S. import quota from 750,000 metric tons in 2009 to 600,000 metric tons in 2010.

According to a government policy, Russia would decrease its imports from 780,000 metric tons in 2010 to 550,000 metric tons in 2012, The Moscow Times reported. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin hopes to increase the country’s poultry production so that it can end imports by 2015.