Russia imposed a ban on all EU pork imports when Lithuanian authorities discovered two cases of African swine fever (ASF) in wild boar, near its border with Belarus, in January. Poland has also since notified the EU Commission of an outbreak of ASF in its territory.
However, the minister said that Russia’s block ban does not conform to the OIE’s (the international organisation for animal health) “regionalisation” rules, which allow for trade with unaffected states. The EU-Russia talks are ongoing.
“I am in agreement with the EU Commission that the ban is disproportionate, as it does not respect the OIE rules on regionalisation,” said Minister Coveney. “The Commission services are currently considering instigating a WTO panel action against the Russian Federation for its non-respect of the regionalisation provision.”
Mr Coveney has raised the matter at the latest Council of Ministers meeting in Brussels. Ireland supports the Commission’s approach to protecting the OIE’s regionalisation approach to managing animal dis-ease outbreaks.
In D•il questions, Fianna F•il TD for Cavan Monaghan, Brendan Smith, asked the minister for an update on the EU’s efforts to resolve the Russian ban.
Mr Smith (Mr Coveney’s predecessor in office) also asked if the minister’s attention had been drawn to the serious financial pressures on pig farmers due to the reduction in pig-meat prices; and asked for his proposals to deal with these difficulties.
“I highlighted the fact that time is running out for producers and processors in the EU, and I encouraged the Commission to step up its efforts to find a solution soon,” said Mr Coveney. “This solution needs to bring to an end this unnecessary blanket ban on EU product, while assuring the continued protection of the EU against the threat of animal disease.”
The Russian market for Irish pork is extremely important, with exports in 2013 of approximately 20,000 tonnes (66.5% higher than 2012) and a value of €55m.
Russia is one of Ireland’s largest non-EU markets and the strong 2013 sales figures contributed greatly to the rise in value of overall pig-meat exports, by 3% in 2013, to €525m.
“It is hugely important that the current ban by Russia on the importation of pigs and pig-meat, from the EU, be lifted as quickly as possible,” said Mr Coveney.
Talks on the resumption of market access will continue, with high-level meetings between director general for the EU Commission (DG Sanco), Paolo Testori Coggi, and her Rus-sian counterpart, Sergey Dankvert, head of Rosselkhoznadzor — the Veterinary and Phytosanitary Service in Moscow. Member state veterinary experts are also discussing the latest ASF developments at meetings in Brussels.
Minister Coveney confirmed that numerous meetings between the EU and the Russian federation have taken place, at political and technical level, since the pork-imports ban was announced in January.
However, the meetings have been unsuccessful, to date. EU Health Commissioner Toni Borg met with Russian Farm Minister Nikoiai Fyodorov in Moscow, and additional technical briefings have been organised, including a meeting of experts from the EU, Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, at the Russian African Swine Fever reference laboratory.
Mr Coveney said he will hold the line on the EU’s approach to resolving the ban.
“The EU Health Commissioner has written to me, and my Council colleagues, urging us to remain resolute in our support for the Commission strategy, in seeking a solution which does not compromise the internationally accepted rules on regionalisation,” said Mr Coveney. “On a positive note, the Russian Federation agreed to lift the ban on finished product containing pork, subject to certain conditions and treatment of the meat before export. This accounts for only a small proportion of Ireland’s exports to Russia,” he said.