The move means vets can guarantee the virus will not penetrate Russia’s customs union with surrounding countries, but experts warn that it may prove challenging for Russian pork producers.
Temporary restrictions have been put on imports of both breeding and commercial pigs, as well as untreated blood products used for the production of feed for food products, said Rosselkhoznadzor.
"Canada was the largest and in fact single supplier of breeding pigs for the Russian business after the ban of importation of animals from the European Union because of African swine fever in 2013," commented the head of the National Meat Association of Russia Sergey Yushin. "This creates difficulties for those pig producers who planned to colonise their farms with foreign breeding animals, and in the future it will be an obstacle for the growth of livestock."
Some of Russia’s largest meat companies spoke out in support of the restrictions. "Large agricultural holdings consider the ban of Rosselkhoznadzor justified," said Sergei Mikhailov, general director of meat manufacturer Cherkizovo. "This is the right ban, because if even one car with pigs with this virus enters Russia, the consequences will be extremely bad."
Maxim Basov, CEO of RusAgro, added: "We fully support the ban. America is now experiencing hard times, and it will be very difficult for them to fight this disease."
Yuri Kovalev, CEO of the National Swine Union, said: "In recent years, Russia imported 15,000-20,000 heads of pigs per year and 80% of deliveries came from Denmark. After the closing of European supplies, Russian pork producers switched to genetic material from Canada and, in less volume, from the United States."
However, he said that Russia would be able to provide itself with those types of products as the state supports producers to create breeding and hybrid centres.
"Given the projected growth of the industry, we need every year about 600,000 sows to repair the herd, and in the future we can produce up to 650,000," he said. The cost of one breeding pig is about US$500, purebred from US$1,000 and above. However, we still will have a need for pure-breed pigs to improve the quality of pig stock."
Russian experts believe there is a political agenda behind the current restrictions. Experts from the Russian analytical agency Investkafe Roman Hrinchenko said that the decision to ban imports of live pigs from the United States was dictated by the Russian government’s desire to support domestic producers. "The political and economic aspects of the ban had a more significant impact on the decision than a real threat," it said.
"Banning the import of pigs from the US and Canada - it’s not great, but the risks [for food security of the country] are too high," said Yuri Kovalev.