Time is running out for pig producers and processors in the EU, according to Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, and he is calling on the EU Commission to step up its efforts to find a quick solution to Russia’s recent ban on pork imports.

“This solution needs to bring to an end to this unnecessary blanket ban on EU product while assuring the continued protection of the EU against the threat of animal disease,” he said.

Last month Russia announced it had stopped the import of pork and pig meat from EU countries, including Ireland, following an outbreak of African swine fever virus in Lithuania.

According to the European Commission, immediate action was taken to prevent the further spread of the disease from the infected areas in Lithuania.

The minister noted the Russian market for Irish pork is extremely important with exports in 2013 of approximately 20,000 tonnes, 66.5 per cent higher than 2012, and a value of €55m.

“It is one of our largest non-EU markets and the strong 2013 sales performance contributed greatly to the rise in value of overall pigmeat exports by three per cent in 2013 to €525m,” he said.

Referring to the cases of African Swine Fever in wild boar near its border with Belarus, the minister said: “They put in place the required disease control measures and informed fellow member states and the EU Commission of the outbreak. The EU Commission, being the competent authority for agreeing sanitary and phytosanitary matters on behalf of the EU informed the OIE, the international organisation for animal health.”

He added: “The Russian Federation and Customs Union refused to accept regionalisation of the disease and imposed a ban on all exports of pigs, pigmeat and pigmeat products from the EU certified after 26 January 2013.”

It is understood a meeting took place last week in Vilnius between the EU Commission and Russian Federation. “While no progress was registered the Commission continues to pursue the matter with urgency,” the minister added.

“I am in agreement with the EU Commission that the ban is disproportionate as it does not respect the OIE rules on regionalisation.”

Minister Coveney spoke on the matter at the Council of Ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday of this week and he confirmed Ireland supports the Commission approach. In addition, Department of Agriculture officials met with industry representatives last week to update them on developments.

“On a positive note the Russian Federation agreed this week to lift the ban on finished product containing pork subject to certain conditions and treatment of the meat before export,” the minister added. “This however accounts for only a small proportion of our exports to Russia.”

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