Noting that the disease has not been found in pigs, Brussels health spokesman Frédéric Vincent told GlobalMeatNews that the move was “disproportionate”: it was imposed after Russia launched a similar ban – the two countries are part of a new Customs union and generally follow each other’s lead in such matters.
Vincent said Belarus had failed to follow the advice of the World Animal Health Organisation (OIE) in imposing the ban. He added that Minsk and Moscow had acted without considering the risks of contamination, which were slight: “Their measures do not correspond to the reality of the situation,” he said. In particular, the bans on pig imports “cannot be justified”, he said.
Meanwhile, the EU is staging a meeting of experts on the disease in Brussels on 2 April, which will be attended by specialists from the OIE and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
Belarus imported €1.048m-worth of meat from the EU in 2010, according to UN trade figures, which did not cover livestock per se. Its livestock import ban came into force on 23 March, with the country’s agriculture ministry saying its action had been provoked by recent new EU outbreaks of the Schmallenberg virus.
The government wanted to “protect Belarusian territory”, it added. Unlike Russia, Belarus’ application to join the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has yet to be approved – which will allow it a freer hand to impose such health-based bans in the future than Moscow, which should become a WTO member this June. From that point, Russian health-based food import bans will have to be justified by science, or they could be challenged via the WTO disputes settlement system.