Ulster farmers hit by Russian pork ban

The Russian ban on EU pork imports is forcing farmers in Britain out of business, the pork and bacon chairman of the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) has said. 

Jonny Cuddy warned that the 20% drop in prices for European pigs since last June, caused by an increase in the amount on the market, has had a serious impact on producer margins.

“While there are many factors behind this fall in prices, the big problem is the imbalance in supply and demand as a result of the Russian trade embargo,” Cuddy said, in a statement posted on the UFU’s website.

Russia accounted for around a third of EU pigmeat exports, until Moscow banned EU food imports last August. The industry has tried to develop new outlets, but many of the products were tailored specifically for Russia, making it difficult to find other buyers, Cuddy said. “Where alternative markets have been found, products have had to be sold at a fraction of the price. On top of that, these new markets are not strong enough to offset the tonnage of pork that went to Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.”

In response to the crisis triggered by the Russian ban, the European Commission introduced a private storage scheme in March. The aim was to remove surplus pork from the market, stabilise prices and allow producer margins to recover. Under this scheme, the Commission met part of the cost of storage for between three and five months. “While this has stabilised prices, the concern is what will happen when this pork comes back onto the market,” said Cuddy. “The volume now in store across Europe equates to almost 800,000 pigs, or half the annual production in Northern Ireland.

“With the price here sitting at around £1.20/kg since early March, there are concerns that as the first of this product comes out of the scheme in July, it could undermine traditional summer price rises,” said Cuddy. “If this happens, and consumer demand fails to recover over the summer, prices will remain under pressure as we move into the autumn and winter months.”

Cuddy said it was now important to try and gain access to other markets that have imposed restrictions on EU pork products, such as Japan and China. He said there should be an increase in the number of EU inspectors to approve abattoirs and accelerate export health certificate negotiations and said there should be wider promotion for the pig sector, highlighting the huge investments farmers have made to ensure EU pigs are produced to the highest animal welfare standards in the world.

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