Meat Industry Ireland (MII) has called on the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney to push for immediate action at EU level to remove technical restrictions on pigmeat exports to Russia.

MII represents Irish meat processors and said that the upcoming specially convened Agriculture Council meeting in Brussels provides an opportunity for clear political direction to be given by EU agriculture ministers to engage in technical discussions with the Russian authorities to resolve the technical embargo on EU pig meat.

The embargo on pigmeat and other products was introduced in January 2014 as a result of limited African Swine Fever outbreaks in some eastern European Member States.

MII said that progress in this area could have a very positive impact on the EU pigmeat market and could quickly lead to the resumption of exports of certain pigmeat products which are blocked by these technical restrictions.

The wider Russian embargo has caused considerable international market disturbance, resulting in increased competition across other key international markets including Japan and the Philippines, it said.

MII highlights the fact that the closure of the Russian market to EU exports has also affected the beef market, particularly impacting the sale of manufacturing beef and beef by-product.

At a time when overall demand in EU markets has weakened, it said that export opportunities in international markets play a crucial role in bringing balance to the market.

While Irish beef exporters are facing weaker demand in European markets at present which is impacting on price levels here, nevertheless MII said that current Irish beef prices remain above average EU prices, as they have done throughout this year.

The EU Agriculture Council which has been convened to address pressures in the livestock sector, should review all meat markets and in addition to addressing the Russian market closure, must also consider recent internal trade disruptions and the need for urgency in securing broader international market access opportunities for EU meat exports, it said.

It says that increased market access is crucial to minimise the effects of the weakened demand being experienced presently in many of our key markets.