An end to the Russian ban on EU food imports could be in sight, according to reports emerging from within Europe this week.

It was confirmed at this week’s Agricultural Council meeting that bilateral discussions between individual Member States and Russia have been ongoing since the turn of the year.

Speaking to Agriland in Brussels today (Wednesday) IBEC’s Cormac Healy welcomed the news that an end could be in sight to the current Russian ban on EU food imports.

“Some Member States took the view that Europe must move as a unified block on the issue. I totally disagree with this approach. The reality is that Ireland must act now to promote its own interests with the Russian authorities.”

He said that meetings have already taking place between Irish Department of Agriculture officials and their Russian counterparts on a range of technical issues, particularly where Irish beef is concerned.

“These contacts must be built on as a matter of priority,” he said.

“Russia is a potential market for Irish pork, dairy and redmeat products. The news that Moscow is now seeking to engage with the EU is a very extremely positive sign.

“But the Department of Agriculture in Dublin must act now to ensure that the interests of the Irish food industry are fully realised as quickly as possible.”

Russia introduced a wide-ranging ban on EU food imports at the beginning of August 2014. Initially, Moscow confirmed that the measures would be maintained in place for a 12-month period.

“The introduction of the Russian import ban was a key factor in depressing EU dairy and pigmeat markets during the latter part of 2014,” said Healy.

“Potentially, Russia is a crucially important outlet for our pig industry. It goes without saying that every step is taken by the EU authorities to have normal food trading relationships restored with Russia as quickly as possible.”

The European Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan told the January Agricultural Council meeting in Brussels that Member States should stay united in their response to Russia’s food import ban.