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WTO Ruling on Russia-EU Pork Trade Impasse Expected in April

Hog prices

European Union Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan addressed a meeting of EU member state ag ministers this week on Russia’s African swine fever (ASF) related suspension of imports of EU pork, which took effect just over two years ago. The EU challenged the suspension at the World Trade Organization (WTO), contending that it violates the WTO sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) agreement, and a confidential interim report has been issued to the two parties. Hogan said the final text of the WTO decision is expected to be issued in April, but he acknowledged that the appeal process will likely push the case’s conclusion into late 2016.

In addition to the ASF-related suspension, pork muscle cuts from the EU (as well as the U.S. and Canada) are also included in Russia’s import embargo imposed as a result of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. The embargo does not cover pork fat or pork variety meat.

Current pork market conditions were also discussed at this week’s meeting of the EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council (AGRIFISH), which announced plans to address the situation in more detail at its March 14 meeting. European farm organization Copa Cogeca issued a statement following the AGRIFISH meeting, calling for the European Commission to intensify efforts to reopen the Russian market to EU pork and consider other measures to encourage expansion of pork exports – including “export credits.” A new animal welfare platform was also discussed at the meeting, with Copa Cogeca issuing a statement encouraging simplification and better enforcement of existing animal welfare rules, rather than new legislation.

EU hog prices have failed to gain momentum so far in 2016, with prices recently averaging 1.28 euros/kg, down 5 percent from a year ago and 16 percent below the 2010-2014 average. In U.S. dollars, prices averaged $65.30/cwt, down 6 percent year-over-year. Piglet prices have been trending higher since the beginning of the year with a recent average of 40 euros/head, up 3 percent from a year ago.