Brussels plans help for pork sector hit by Russian ban

piglet.jpg [Shutterstock]

Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan pledged on Sunday to take steps to support pork prices in an effort to help the industry, as it reels from a Russian import ban.

Hogan said on a visit to the annual Paris farm show that the “most effective tool available” was for the Commission to introduce stocking of pork meat products, a measure he expected to confirm in the next few days.

“I have been conscious of the difficulties faced by pig farmers … Producers have faced a particular difficulty resulting from the unjustified ban imposed by Russia,” Hogan said in remarks emailed to Reuters by his spokesman.

He said the sector needed support and that he had proposed that “we should open private storage for pigmeat”.

“This measure would remove a considerable volume of product from the market, which should have the effect of putting a floor under the market, stabilising the financial situation of farmers and should enable the market to recover by stimulating the fragile recovery in prices,” he said.

The announcement was immediately welcomed by French Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll, who along with several European counterparts had been calling for such measures for a number of months to counter the impact of the Russian embargo.

Hogan met with Le Foll and representatives of various farmer organisations at the Paris show, his spokesman said.

The EU pork sector has been dented by a Russian import ban that began in early 2014 after an outbreak of African swine fever in the east of the EU and was reinforced by a broader one-year embargo against Western foodstuffs decreed in August.

EU pork meat exports to Russia were worth about 1 billion euros in 2013.

French farmer groups estimated that the Russian ban on EU pork products cost producers in France around 500 million euros last year due to the cumulative effective of lost exports and the drag on prices within the EU.

France last month attempted to get Russia to lift the part of its ban covering live pigs, offal and fat through talks between veterinary officials.

But an initial agreement stalled after the move was criticised by countries like Poland as breaking EU unity and Russia’s veterinary services broke off discussions.

In August 2014, Russia banned the import of certain foods and drinks originating from the European Union as a response to Western sanctions over Ukraine’s crisis.

Russia is the primary export destination for the EU's meat and dairy products. In 2013, exports to Russia were worth €2.3 billion.

Since the ban took effect, the European Commission has announced emergency market support measures for the dairy sector, and handed financial help of up to €125 million to help farmers cope with the impact of Russia's ban.

Earlier, the Commission announced roughly €32 million aid for peaches and nectarines, and €125 million for perishable fruits and vegetables.

The EU executive pledged an additional €165 million in October in aid for farmers affected by the Russian sanctions.

>> Read: EU farmers get another €165 million of aid after Russian food ban

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