ANALYSIS - The way could be reopened for the restoration of exports of pork and pig meat products to Russia.
The new move follows a series of bi-lateral meetings between the EU Commission, several European countries and the Russian veterinary authority Rosselkhoznador during Green Week in Berlin last week.
As well as members of the European Commission, the meetings included veterinary officials and farm ministers from France the Netherlands, Italy, Belgium and Denmark with Sergey Dankvert the head of Rosselkhoznador.
Then further meetings took place with representatives from Germany, Poland and Lithuania.
However, while progress has been made on sanctions imposed because of the European Union situation and stance on measures to control African swine fever outbreaks in the Baltic states, the embargo raised by the Russians in retaliation to the EU stance on Ukraine and Crimea remains in place.
In the meeting with French Chief Vet, Jean-Luc Angot, the delegation called for an early resumption of pork exports to the Russian Customs Union. The possibility of a resumption of exports of breeding stock was also discussed.
Mr Angot also explored signing a protocol on the supply of poultry meat.
In the meeting with the head of the Dutch Veterinary Service, Christiane Brushko, questions arising out of the inspection of three Dutch meat plants that want to export beef by-products, including offal and fat, to Russia were discussed and the question of exporting pork products was also raised.
The Dutch vet also gave an update on the situation surrounding the outbreaks of avian influenza and the control measures that have been put in place in the Netherlands.
Talks also took place with the head of the Italian food safety authority, Giuseppe Ruocco over inspections of beef plants wanting to export beef by-products to Russia
And Mr Ruocco also said he was ready and willing to work out ways to resume supplies of Italian pork to Russia.
Mr Dankvert also met with the head of the Danish veterinary authority, Per Henriksen, who also voiced great interest in resuming pork exports to Russia.
The Danish delegation also discussed the inspection of two beef plants wanting to export by-products to Russia.
Mr Dankvert then discussed the potential for electronic certification systems with Pierre Naassens from the Belgian food safety authority to improve border controls and to reduce the risks from trade in animal products.
The Russians and the Belgians have also signed a protocol to start trade in beef trimmings and by-products.
In further meetings during Green Week, talks took place between the German agriculture minister Christian Schmidt and the Russian Agriculture Minister Nikolai Fyodorov over the possibility of to initiate Russian inspections of meat and dairy plants as well as building closer links between the two countries in the agricultural sector.
However, in a meeting with the Polish veterinary authorities, the Rosselkhoznador team still expressed concerns over the way the European Commission had instigated control measures following the outbreaks of African swine fever in Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.
The Russians said that the commission had not acted swiftly or decisively enough and the disease had now spread 250 km into the Baltic region through the wild boar population.
The Russians said that there should have been a mass cull of wold board to prevent the rapid spread.
However, a letter from the commission from Ladislav Miko calling for the situation to return to pre-ban trade and calling for inspections of meat plants to help reopen trade was welcomed by Rosselkhoznador.
The letter also spelt out measures for greater cooperation between the two sides to control African swine fever and to fight against fraud.
The easing of relationships and the smoothing of the path towards a reopening of the pig meat market in particular has been welcomed by the European meat sector.
The European Livestock and Meat Trades Union (UECBV), said it welcomed these outcomes, a result of months of dialogue, as the first concrete agreement between EU and Russia on improving their trade relationship in the livestock sector.
“They have the potential to restore confidence between the two regions and to provide support to the EU pork market,” UECBV said.
“Thanks to this constructive dialogue the EU pig farmers and pork industry may restore up to around 40 per cent of the exports to Russia.
“EU Member States, as a first step, without prejudice to the Russian embargo implemented last August, will now start working on the technical specifications for a resumption of the export of some specific products.”
UECBV added that the achievement would have been impossible without the efficiency of DG SANTE negotiators, and is the result of substantial and long efforts.
“UECBV also hopes that the achievement will open the door to a final agreement on the SPS issues for the pork sector, aiming at restoring sustainable trade.
“Since January 2014, EU Member States have not been allowed to certify live pigs and the products thereof for export to Russia due to a technical issue regarding the veterinary certificate caused by the occurrence of African swine fever in certain Member States (Baltic States, Poland),” the meat industry organisation said.
The EU pig farmers and pork industry lost revenue and turnover because of SPS barriers for export to Russia that, in 2013, absorbed around 25 per cent of the EU pork sector exports or three of the EU pork production.
The breakthrough has also been applauded by the French agriculture minister, Stéphan Le Foll.
He said: “The health organisation and expertise of French scientist widely recognised internationally, have contributed significantly to the progress of negotiations.”
He said the agreement could eventually reopen trade work €100 million to the French pig sector.
However, he said he was still calling on the European Commissioner Hogan to bring in private storage to ease the immediate plight of French pig farmers and he said he would raise the issue at the next meeting of the Council of Ministers.
Mr Le Foll said he remained committed to make every effort, both at national and European level, to limit the impact of the Russian embargo on other French agricultural sectors.
Top image via Shutterstock