Denmark may pursue bilateral solution with Russia

By Gerard O’Dwyer, in Helsinki

- Last updated on GMT

Denmark may side-step EU to strengthen Russian links
Denmark may side-step EU to strengthen Russian links

Related tags: African swine fever, Pork exports, European union, Russia, Pork

The Danish government is considering breaking ranks with the European Union (EU) and striking a bilateral trade deal with Russia to protect its pork exports. These have been hit while Russia blocks EU pigmeat exports over a handful of African swine fever cases in Poland and Lithuania.

With talks between the European Commission and Moscow over the ban going nowhere, a senior official within the Danish food and agriculture ministry said Copenhagen might respond positively to a separate offer from Russia to allow sales of Danish pigmeat.

"It is our view that the EU Commission has had adequate time to find a solution. That hasn’t happened. Should Russia decide to approach Denmark, then we will look into the possibility of resuming pork exports through the bilateral trade agreement route,"​ said Per Henriksen, chief veterinary officer at the ministry’s Danish Veterinary and Food Administration (DVFA), told GlobalMeatNews.

This follows pressure for action from Danish farmers, who have suffered since Russia imposed its ban on 28 January 2014 – it also covers raw meat preparations, breeding and piglets for fattening. Denmark has a strong pigmeat sector and around 25% of the pork produced in the EU in 2013, worth €1.4 billion in 2013, was exported to Russia.

The EU has challenged Russia’s ban on European pork imports at the World Trade Organisation (WTO), claiming it is damaging the pig industry. And the crisis in Ukraine has further soured relations between Russia and the EU, impeding negotiations.

The ban has brought to a head concerns among Danish farmers about Russia’s periodic EU food bans - which invariably relate to health issues in other EU states. A long-term bilateral deal with Russia would offer more guarantees for Denmark’s pig producers, they argue – although it might be challenged by the European Commission as breaking EU law.

Meetings are scheduled this month between meat industry representatives and ministry officials. The ministry estimates that Denmark has lost between €4m to €10m-a-week on lost pork exports to Russia since the ban began in January.

A bilateral deal offers the best solution for Danish pork exporters, Henriksen said: "Unfortunately, I think it will be tough to make a [EU] deal because of the current political tension between the EU and Russia. If the crisis was just about swine flu we would have found a solution by now,"​ he said.

The DVFA is responsible for meat food safety and health in Denmark, and has never experienced an African swine fever outbreak, said Henriksen.

Related topics: Meat

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