ANALYSIS - Biosecurity measures, including against African swine fever, in Belarus have come under fierce fire following a meeting between the chiefs of the veterinary authorities of Russia and Belarus.
In the meeting the head of the Russia’s veterinary authority, Rosselkhoznador, Sergey Dankvert (pictured above) said that over the last three years, Belarus had not been properly supervising and regulating the import and export of meat and food products.
And this has led to the need for economic retaliation.
Mr Dankvert said that this year alone, Rosselkhoznador had sent 43 letters to the Belarus veterinary authorities over violations of the regulations on the supply of products of animal origin.
However, Rosselkhoznador had only receive five replies to these letters.
Mr Dankvert added that the Belarus authorities were no better when it came to the supervision of vegetable products.
And he said that there had also been problems over the supply of meat products that had been found to contain the genome of African swine fever to Russian processors.
He said that there is also great concern over the discovery by Rosselkhoznador of large-scale smuggling of products between Belarus and Russia.
“All this means that there is a great need for the early production of a comprehensive plan to produce a radical change in the situation,” said Mr Dankvert.
“We need to create a system that provides a guarantee of the safety of the raw materials and food products that are being supplied onto the Russian market.”
He called for a system of controls to prevent products being traded under false or counterfeit sanitary and phytosanitary certificates.
“Rosselkhoznador has serious concern that the African swine fever genome has been found in Belarussian meat products and that the Belarussian veterinary service has failed to take any action over it,” Mr Dankvert said.
He said that there is growing concern over the risks associated with the quarantine facilities in Belarus for vegetable products.
Mr Dankvert said that there was a need to have a unified approach across the Customs Union to the methods used in inspection and enforcement.
The Belarussian minister of agriculture and food Igor Bryl said that the restrictions imposed by Rosselkhoznador had had a negative impact on bilateral trade between the two countries.
He called for an immediate resumption of trade in food products and said that the Belarussian side was ready to enter into talks on how to improve the country’s sanitary and phytosanitary controls.
He added that there should be room for arbitration when there is a dispute over research and in cases where questions are raised.
He said that Belarus was ready for a joint commission to be set up to look at ways of preventing the African swine fever genome entering meat products in Belarus and being supplied to Russia.
The Deputy Head of the Rosselkhoznador, Chief Veterinary Officer of Russia Evgeny Nepoklonov agreed with Mr Bryl that throughout the Customs Union the same rules and regulations should apply in the field of veterinary and phytosanitary issues to ensure food safety and facilitate bilateral trade.
However, he said that violations of the regulations had become apparent and in every case Rosselkhoznador had notified the Belarus authorities, but the Russian veterinary authority had not received any information about how the violations were being addressed.
He said there had been more than “three dozen violations” and products contaminated with African swine fever had reached 11 regions in Russia from five different meat plants from four regions in Belarus.
“We are talking about hundreds of tonnes of products,” Mr Nepoklonov said.
He added that at the same time two outbreaks of African swine fever had been reported in Belarus and this raised questions over the security of the borders with Poland and Lithuania and well as with Russia near Smolensk and Pskov.
He also raised concerns about products that were being transported with false certificates, including batches of meat products coming from the European Union, in particular the Netherlands, Germany and Poland.
He said that a consignment of pork with Montenegrin certificates was for 10,000 tonnes of pork despite the fact that Montenegro has just 18,000 pigs.
Following the meeting, a protocol was signed, in which joint action was agreed to solve the problems.
In particular, it was decided that the Belarusian side will provide Rosselkhoznador with detailed information about the results of investigation into each slaughterhouse, in which meat products have been found with the ASF gene and measures will be taken to tackle the problem in a bid to stop their export to Russia.
Up until 15 December, Belarus will supply data on pig meat suppliers and on the output volume, the results of monitoring studies of domestic and wild pigs for the ASF, as well as the safety performance of products and the data on pigs at meat processing plants and in cold stores, the number of both industrial and government veterinary specialists based at these plants, and on measures to eliminate hotbeds of ASF and the results of laboratory studies of pathological material.