EU meat exporters likely to face barriers
Speaking at the IFAH-Europe conference in Brussels last week, Hans Joostens, policy officer at the European Commission DG Trade, said that the use of food safety and animal health as a trade barrier was increasing, with countries blocking imports due to “unreasonable sanitary and phytosanitary restrictions”.
“The reasons for this lie in protectionist measures... Developing countries have not yet built up standards of safety that match Europe,” he explained.
The EU is the largest exporter of agri-food in the world, valued at over €105bn in 2011. Pig products are playing an increasingly important role in this, with pig meat and pig offal contributing significantly to total agricultural exports.
Joostens said the EC has worked hard to improve the export of animal products outside the EU over the past few years and will continue to do so in the years ahead.
In response, Declan O’Brien, managing director of IFAH-Europe, called for science-based decisions and rational arguments for trade bans based on animal disease.
“Slaughter or trade bans that result after outbreaks must be carefully examined and based on scientific evidence to avoid weakening the agricultural economies of exporting nations,” he said.
He added that it was important for Europe to do all that it could to prepare for future outbreaks and minimise export disruptions.
“More efficient veterinary legislation can help stimulate innovation and allow for more products to be brought to market. This will not only increase our preparedness for future disease outbreaks from both a health and a trade perspective, but will contribute to the sustainable supply of safe food.”
Speaking earlier in the day, Alejandro Bernal, chairman of IFAH-Europe, pointed out that Europe has a successful history of managing outbreaks such as salmonella, bluetongue and foot-and-mouth disease.
“Europeans are accustomed to very high standards in food safety and, sometimes, the contribution animal health makes to our wellbeing is overlooked. For example, bluetongue outbreaks went from 45,000 cases in 2008 to 39 in 2011, thanks to prevention and control measures,” he said.
“While we are proud of major breakthroughs of this type, we are also acutely aware of future critical challenges. We encourage policy-makers to support us in building an appropriate climate to continue developing advanced solutions that protect both animal and human health.”