ANALYSIS - The French meat industry association, SNIV SNCP has called on European government to put pressure on the European Commission to restart bilateral talks with Russia to open up the export markets for European pig meat, writes Chris Harris.
The borders with Russia have been closed since the discovery of African swine fever in Lithuania and Poland.
While the European Commission has instituted regionalised control measures to contain the disease around the areas of the outbreaks, the Russian veterinary authorities do not believe that these controls are enough and have called for the entire countries to be isolated.
SNIV SNCP said that the “last chance” talks held in Madrid last week between the European Commission and Russian health officials in a bid to establish regionalisation measures ended in failure.
During the talks the Russian veterinary services reminded the Commission that it had suggested that in the event of African swine fever being found in the EU, a return to export certificates for each country should be considered.
The European Commission has refused to adopt this measure, opting for local regionalisation.
SNIV SNCP said: “Faced with this failure, the Commission just took the worst measures - to initiate proceedings against the Russian Federation in the World Trade Organisation and to oppose bilateral discussion between non-neighbouring countries of Lithuania and Poland and Russia.”
The French meat industry association said that in the short term because pig meat consumption in the EU has been boosted by good weather and higher prices in the US, it might be seen that the Russian ban on pig meat imports from the EU has had no effect on prices on the European market.
“This is a double error,” the meat association said.
“What has not been taken into account is that Russia allows a secure chain for the market and above all the huge volume of European stocks and the depreciation o=f the high value of many products and co-cutting pieces has not been taken into account.”
The association added: “Today, only the pressure of the member states on the European Commission can unlock the situation, by allowing bilateral talks.”
SNIV SNCP said that this had become even more urgent because the EU has adopted policies and financial measures against Russia in the light of the crisis over Ukraine and Crimea.
According to the Russian veterinary authority Rosselkhoznador the veterinary services in several European countries have offered additional security guarantees that would help restore their pork exports to Russia and other countries of the Customs Union.
However, Rosselkhoznador said that according to information from EurActiv.fr, the Commission ordered that the EU stopped bilateral negotiations with Rosselkhoznador on restoring the pork trade.
At the same time, the National Union of Pig Producers of France which is part of FNSEA (National Federation of Trade Unions of Agricultural Producers) said that "French pig farmers are faced with a difficult situation, weak cash flow and insufficient profit margins. They have no opportunity to resist falling prices" and has urged France not to stop the bilateral negotiations with Russia.
The European Commission plans to provide €3.5 million of aid to the Netherlands and Poland, to take action to prevent the spread of the disease.
At the same time, the Commission is to stop funding from 1 April for the shooting of wild boar and the analysis of the pathological material for ASF in Lithuania.
Rosselkhoznador said that the European Commission argues that it found only four cases of African swine fever in wild boar in late January - in Lithuania and Poland, near the border with Belarus.
"These cases are associated with long-term presence of African swine fever in the western regions of Russia and its appearance in Belarus," - said a statement from DG SANCO.
"The European Commission says that the disease is present in Europe only in wild boar in Sardinia. And as wild boars cannot swim, the Commission considers that the virus cannot spread to the continent."
In this regard, Rosselkhoznador said that the European Commission seems to have forgotten that Belarus, Russia, Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine, where the problems with African swine fever have been found, are found on the European continent.
“Thus, despite the reluctance of the European Commission, ASF virus is present on the European continent, in addition to Sardinia, and other areas, and to further its spread in Europe boars do not need to overcome wide water barriers,” Rosselkhoznador said.