Leaders of EU farm industry association Copa-Cogeca and the European Livestock & Meat Trading Union (UECBV) stressed to GlobalMeatNews that the European Commission, food industry companies and EU member states had successfully adapted to Russia’s actions.
“We welcome, in particular, the recent agri-trade missions organised by EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan to countries outside the EU, such as Hong Kong, Vietnam, Japan, Mexico and Indonesia, as it offers our members a good opportunity to develop new markets and to meet traders and high-level officials,” said Copa-Cogeca secretary general Pekka Pesonen. “We are already starting to see some results from them. Overall, our EU agricultural exports have been increasing.”
Jean-Luc Mériaux, UECBV secretary general, agreed, telling GlobalMeatNews: “In 2015 and 2016 the EU meat exports grew – beef by 7% and 18% and pork by 11% and 23% respectively.”
That said, he hoped the diplomatic stand-off between Brussels and Moscow would be resolved “as soon as possible, as Russia will continue being a [potential] trade partner that will contribute to the strengthening of EU exports, thanks to a better diversification”, Mériaux stressed.
Russia’s ban will now last until 31 December, and follows a decision by the EU to extend sanctions against Russia until January 2018. But it is also clear that the Russian government is appreciating the benefits that this protection is giving its domestic meat sector. President Vladimir Putin, commenting on ‘Direct Line’, (an annual Russian special television question-and-answer programme), said: “Maintaining the sanctions regime in the domestic meat sector is very important, as this will allow to further reduce Russia’s dependence on imported meat products. In the case of pork and poultry, currently domestic production fully meets our needs. Moreover, due to the existing surplus of their production, Russia is considering beginning exports of part of these products, in particular to China.”
In the meantime, a Russian Ministry of Agriculture official told GlobalMeatNews that the situation with beef remained more complicated, as currently up to 35% of Russia’s annual needs were met by imports. However, because these imports come mostly from Brazil, Argentina and other Latin American states, the Russian government believes that the extension of sanctions will not risk the development of beef shortages. The official argued that the sanctions had encouraged Russian consumers to shift from imported beef to cheaper domestically-manufactured poultry products.