The European Union has criticised Russia’s decision to prohibit imports of pigs, cattle, sheep and goats from the 27-nation bloc and said it will use “all opportunities” to ensure the ban is lifted.
Russia has outlawed the imports due to an outbreak of the Schmallenberg virus, which causes stillbirths and deformed offspring. Shipments of animals from Britain, France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy and Luxembourg to other countries via Russia were halted on Mar 16.
“The trade in these live animals from the EU has in no way endangered the health of citizens of the Russian Federation and these restrictions are therefore not based upon scientific fact, necessity or proportionality in any way,” the European Commission said in a statement.
The Schmallenberg virus is named after the German city near where it was first identified in November. It was probably spread last year by biting midges, infecting pregnant sheep, cows and goats, according to Germany’s Federal Research Institute for Animal Health.
EU trade commissioner Karel De Gucht and health commissioner John Dalli consider the Russian ban to be “disproportionate and unjustified,” adding that it is “not in line with the World Trade Organisation rules”.
Russia is set to join the Geneva-based WTO no later than August, after which governments can challenge the country’s rules.
The virus has been found on 1,000 farms in Germany, 824 in France, 192 in the Netherlands, 190 in Britain. and 255 in Belgium. The commission said pigs are not affected by the virus.
EU exports of pigs, cattle, sheep and goats to Russia were worth €188m last year, and €75m of shipments are affected by the ban, the commission said.
Russia’s food-safety watchdog, known as Rosselkhoznadzor, said yesterday that EU shipments of processed animal protein that is added to the feed of reproductive animals, as well as feed containing protein of European origin, will be prohibited as of Mar 26.
The ban is due to risks of transition of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, also known as mad cow disease.