BBC pork fears have little basis in fact

Fears of a pork price slump because of the latest Russian import ban, reported today (August 11) by the BBC, have little basis in fact, writes Pig World editor Graeme Kirk.

Rather than importing 90% of its pork, the true figure for Russia’s pork imports is closer to 40% (about 1.3 million tonnes out of total consumption of 3.3 million tonnes forecast by the country’s National Pig Producers Union for 2014).

Figures from Russia’s National Meat Association for 2013, presented at a conference in Canada earlier this year, claimed that only 26% of the country’s pork requirement was imported, but more reliable trade figures from the West support a higher figure. The Russians put the import split for 2013 at 60% from the EU, 22% from Brazil and 12% from Canada.

Traditionally, the EU would have supplied about 750,000t/year of pork to Russia, but isn’t currently sending any at all due to the ASF ban. The US would have also sent about 100,000t annually, but again has been frozen out by Russia’s ractopamine ban. Canada’s contribution to Russian imports was about 150,000t in 2013.

Importantly, fears of pork being dumped on the UK market are highly unlikely to come to fruition because the trade deals between the EU and third countries that would allow these imports are not in place. An EU/Canada trade deal is in the final stages of being adopted, while the EU/US trade deal is still some way off – and fraught with difficulties on the food front already. In any case, US pork is about the most expensive in the world at the moment because of PEDv.

There may well be price falls for pork as the market rebalances, but the key to limiting the damage of the ban will be whether Russia is successful in sourcing pork elsewhere. It’s understood that it’s already talking to South Korea and South Africa as potential suppliers, and even Switzerland is in the frame as a source of imports.

If Russia can build up imports from new sources, the EU and other banned countries can take over the markets that these exporters used to supply and world trade will remain more or less in balance.

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