The European Union is considering blocking imports of Polish meat products because many of the country's processing plants are likely to miss agreed deadlines to improve hygiene standards.
At present, only about 30 of the country's 1,800 meat processing plants have been awarded permits to export to the EU. Another 30 are currently being evaluated. These are mostly big or mid-sized companies with modern equipment.
Various deadlines were originally given to meat processing firms to meet EU norms, ranging from June this year to 2008. It now looks likely that many of these deadlines will not be realised.
Reuters quoted Przemyslaw Chabowski, head of the Polish Association of Meat Producers, Exporters and Importers, as saying: "If Poland does not adjust to EU standards and breaks its promises to Brussels, our sales will be limited to the local market." Chabowski believes that the Polish government may attempt to use political pressure to avoid the ban. The European Commission has the power to impose a trade block if Polish producers do not stick to an agreed timetable of upgrading hygiene and other food safety standards.
Indeed, the Commission has the power to invoke a number of safeguard clauses designed to protect the EU single market against possible distortions stemming from the bloc's enlargement to admit 10 countries, mostly from eastern Europe.