Russia imposed the ban on EU pig products more than two years ago in early 2014 following a limited number of African Swine Fever (ASF) cases in the EU close to the Belarus border.
A WTO panel has now ruled that Russia’s refusal to accept imports of certain EU products and the adapt EU-Russia import certificates accordingly amounts to an EU-wide import ban, and violates the world trade rules.
Pig production ranks third in importance behind beef and dairy in terms of economic value at the farm gate in Ireland. Much of this product prior to 2014 was destined for the Russian and Chinese markets. Since the Russian import ban in 2014, exports to Russia have dropped from 1300 tons to zero. Fortunately the Chinese market expanded by 41 percent in 2015 and is now one of Ireland’s main export markets.
Rosderra, Irelands largest pig meat producer, exported an estimated 40, 000 tonnes of pork produce to China last year, which accounted for between 13percent and 15precent of their total output.
While Britain remains the primary export market for Irish pork and bacon, and Chinese urban population continues to buy pork as their primary protein source and will provide significant growth over the next ten years, a reopening of the Russia market will provide a much needed alternative to exports to Britain as the Brexit market access issues unfold. In fact Russia is the larger global importer of pig meat importer, importing close to 200,000 tons of pork compared to the 150,000 tons imported by China per annum.
The WTO ruling sends a “strong signal” to Russia, and all WTO members, about their obligation to respect international standards The ruling confirms that the measures taken by Russia against the EU have little to do with any real sanitary or health risks. EU products are safe and there is thus no need for any country to maintain unjustified import restrictions.
Whether Putin and his politburo colleagues will comply with the recommendation remains to be seen.
The pig meat ban arose initially as a political counter measure over the Crimea annexation by Russian rather than a genuine food safety concern , hence it is unlikely that the Russian government will comply without the UN sanctions imposed by the EU and the US being lifted .
Already EU sources have stated that Russia has sent a list of demands, including removing Russian agriculture minister Alexander Tkatchev from the EU travel blacklist as a condition for lifting the pig meat ban.