Commission condemns Russian Schmallenberg pig import ban
THE European Commission has condemned the decision by Russia to ban EU livestock imports in response to the Schmallenberg outbreak.
From today (March 20), Russia is suspending all live EU cattle, sheep, goat and - despite the fact there is no evidence that SBV affects the species – pig imports. This extends Russia’s temporary import ban on live sheep, cattle and genetic material imports from the affected countries announced last month.
EU figures indicate that live bovine exports to Russia, for the period Jan-Oct 2011, were worth €15 million in Germany, €26m in Netherlands and €3m in France. A ban on pork imports would be a major blow to exporters, who sold over 340 000t to Russia last year, according to the UK farming union’s Brussels BAB office.
European Commission Agriculture spokesman Roger Waite said any restrictions imposed on the back of fears over SBV were ‘disproportionate and scientifically unjustified’, particularly where pigmeat was concerned.
“We are watching it closely and we have had discussions with the Russian. A delegation from DG Sanco (Commission health directorate) visited Russia last week.
“Any ban is disproportionate and unjustified because there is absolutely no evidence Schmallenberg poses a risk to humans. The Russian decision on pigs is even more unjustified because there have been no cases of Schmallenberg in pigs,” he said.
Egypt has also imposed trade restrictions on live cattle, while other countries are considering similar actions.
The Russian import ban is due to be discussed by EU Ministers and Commission officials today during meetings in Brussels.
After a recent Brussels meeting of the SCoFCAH committee of animal health experts the Commission said: ““The EU remains united and strong on this issue and further steps are being undertaken by the Member States to keep the situation under constant assessment and to fill the knowledge gaps by means of targeted scientific studies that will be co-financed by the EU.”
Professor Wim Van der Poel, from Wageningen University in the Netherlands, said several countries outside the EU have imposed import restrictions for live animals and genetic products.
“All of this challenges the European Union to set up proportionate and effective control measures, and member states’ scientific institutions have been asked to rapidly produce scientific results to ensure any measures are evidence-based,” he said.
SBV has now been detected on well over 2,000 farms across the EU.