First on the list of target export countries are Egypt, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Iran, according to representatives of Lithuania’s Food and Veterinary Service (FVS).
The country’s authorities are currently struggling to expand supplies geographically, with another of its key priorities being to launch exports to the US in the first half of 2015.
This month, Lithuania is expecting a visit from a delegation of experts from Iran, and in March from Morocco, who will assess the country’s compliance with non-stun slaughter practices in terms of their requirements.
"These visits are a very important step towards control harmonisation and veterinary certificates for exporting animal products to Iran and Morocco. The main purpose of these negotiations is to open up their markets for our products," said FVS head Jonas Milius.
Lithuanian authorities have been working on opening new markets for meat products since the beginning of 2014, following the first of Russia’s restrictions on the supply of pork. This work intensified in August, as the Russian embargo hit the country’s beef and pork producers hard, with total losses estimated at nearly €100 million per year.
Prior to the restriction, Lithuanian meat processors supplied Russia with almost half of its production. In 2013, total pork exports were valued at €23m, €17m of which was generated by exports to Russia. Beef exports to Russia in 2013 were valued at €58m; in 2012 they stood at €77m. Experts believe the Russian embargo – and the need to diversify meat export supplies – was one of the main reasons for the government to legalise non-stun slaughter in September 2014.
Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius promised that, for domestic meat producers, the loss of the Russian market, among others, would be compensated for by launching exports to the US. According to him, all negotiations on the issue are already complete and supplies could be launched as early as mid-2015.
"In the US, a public consultation [on opening meat exports from Lithuania] will be held from 17 February 2015. After that, permission to export Lithuanian meat products to the US domestic market will come into force. So, we hope that, in the first half of 2015, we will be able to export beef, pork, mutton, goat meat and meat by-products to the US," stated Butkevičius.
Dzekcheryus Darius, director of Lithuania’s Association of Breeders, said that meat produced in the country could be supplied to some markets in the European Union, in particular Italy, Spain and Greece. However, supplying markets in Muslim countries still looked most promising, he added.