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Audio: Uzbekistan Reopens to U.S. Pork, Lifting Only PEDV-related Ban

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Uzbekistan has reopened to U.S. pork for the first time in three years, lifting an import suspension imposed in response to findings of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) in the United States. Uzbekistan was the only country to ban imports of U.S. pork due to PEDV (although Costa Rica has a PEDV-related ban on U.S. pork casings). Yuri Barutkin, U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) regional representative based in St. Petersburg, Russia, explains that the suspension took effect in 2014, shortly after USMEF had launched its first pork marketing efforts in Uzbekistan and initial shipments of U.S. pork had just begun to enter the country’s commercial channels. He notes that USMEF and its industry partners hosted top veterinary officials from Uzbekistan for an educational visit to learn more about U.S. pork production and ease their concerns about PEDV. This helped lay the groundwork for last week’s reopening, which followed a persistent three-year effort by USDA and the U.S. industry to get import ban lifted.

While Uzbekistan is likely to be a small market for U.S. pork, Barutkin says the initial shipments were well-received by meat processors and he feels U.S. pork can compete very well with imports from the European Union. There is a relatively small volume of domestic product in the market, as Uzbekistan’s pork industry relies almost entirely on backyard production.


TRANSCRIPT:

Joe Schuele: The central Asian country of Uzbekistan has reopened to U.S. pork. That’s significant because Uzbekistan was the only country to ban U.S. pork due to porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, or PEDV. In this U.S. Meat Export Federation report, regional representative Yuri Barutkin has more details on the reopening.

Yuri Barutkin: In 2014, after the outbreak of PEDV in the United States, we had the restriction placed on U.S. pork and in fact it happened almost right after we had our first trial shipment of pork to Uzbekistan. And Uzbekistan appeared to be the only country in the world that has done that. So USMEF, together with USDA, and with the help of our industry colleagues, we invited Uzbekistan officials to talk them into coming to the United States to learn about the industry and to actually learn about a PEDV epidemic. It did not happen immediately after that, but we never gave up on that, reminding Uzbekistan officials that we need a solution, and I’m very pleased to say that three years into the situation we finally got this restriction lifted.

Joe Schuele: While Uzbekistan will remain a small market for U.S. pork, Barutkin does see opportunities for the U.S. industry.

Yuri Barutkin: It’s predominantly a Muslim country, but there are a lot of people in Uzbekistan who are non-religious, so those people are eating pork. There’s no commercial production of pork in Uzbekistan, it’s all being done as backyard production. And some pork is being shipped from abroad, predominantly from the European Union. Our first trial shipment of pork was very well received. People complimented the high quality of the product and its consistency from box to box. So I think the U.S. can actually compete quite well in that market.

Joe Schuele: For more information, please visit USMEF.org. For the U.S. Meat Export Federation, I’m Joe Schuele.