Blog: Dean BestBrussels hits out at Russia's ongoing ban on EU pork imports

Dean Best | 27 June 2014

Moscow's decision to ban EU shipments of pork products entering Russia is "clearly disproportionate, discriminatory and not based on science", Brussels said today (30 June) as it detailed why it had asked the World Trade Organization to intervene.

Russia closed its doors to live pigs, pork and other related products from the EU in January after cases of African Swine Fever emerged in Lithuania and Poland, close to the border with Belarus.

Almost a quarter of EU exports of these products are sold to Russia and the move prompted Brussels to turn to the WTO to intervene - which Moscow in turn criticised, as we reported in early April.

At the EU's request, talks were between the two sides were held in late April and early May but the discussions ended without agreement. Today (30 June), the EU said it had taken the next step and asked the WTO to consider the issue at one of its disputes panels.

"The EU immediately put in place measures to contain the spread of the disease. Thus, EU products from the non-affected areas are perfectly safe. Despite our efforts over the last five months and the numerous bilateral contacts ewe had with Russia, there is no sign that Russia will allow trade to resume from the unaffected areas in the EU," said EU commissioner for health Tonio Borg.

In recent weeks, meat processors based in the EU, including Finland-based groups Atria and HKScan, have said the ban is affecting their sales.

EU Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos said the ban had had "a severe impact on the EU pig sector, requiring crisis assistance measures".

Ciolos said: "During the 5 months the ban has now been in place, European pig meat producers have lost exports worth some EUR580m."

Brussels insists Russia has treated "other countries with similar or worse outbreaks more favourably, accepting imports from them".

And it claimed: "Russia also discriminates against others by failing to take measures in its own market despite the numerous outbreaks of the disease on its own territory."

How Moscow views the latest comments from Russia is unknown. Nevertheless, on Thursday, Rosselkhoznadzor, Russia's Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance, claimed it had received information from the EU that said there had been outbreaks of African Swine Fever in Latvia.

Russian officials said only Lithuania was implementing "complex, consistent and systemic measures both for the disease control and spread prevention". They said Moscow had proposed a "joint programme" to control the disease but claimed the EU had "stated complete sufficiency of measures taken" and saw "no sense" in "systemic measures such as boar depopulation".

All the while, some of the EU's pork processors are feeling the pinch.

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