Pig carcasses© View Pictures/REX/ Shutterstock

Moscow has indicated it will fight €1.39bn worth of sanctions proposed by the European Union (EU) over its 2014 pig and pork trade embargo.

The EU is seeking to impose the retaliatory trade sanctions against Russia via the World Trade Organization (WTO), which deemed Russia’s ban on pigmeat products from the EU and some Baltic states to be illegal in February 2017.

Moscow claimed the ban was lifted following the WTO February ruling, but remains effectively in place as a retaliation to EU sanctions imposed over Russia’s annexation of the Crimea and its presence in eastern Ukraine.

WTO regulations permit countries to impose retaliatory measures against countries that illegally block products from other organisation members.

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Speaking to GlobalMeatNews.com, a spokesperson for Russian economic development minister Maxim Oreshkin said the Russian government opposed both the initial WTO ruling and the EU’s plans for retaliatory sanctions and might launch a legal response of its own.

African swine fever infection

He added continued pork import restrictions were a result of the presence of African swine fever (ASF) in the EU, a disease that originated in Russia in 2007 and spread to wild boar populations in a number of neighbouring eastern European states.

The European Union is expected to lodge its official complaint to the WTO disputes settlement body this week.

Access to the Russian market was worth €5.5bn (£4.2bn) annually to EU farmers before the ban, according to European farming union Copa-Cogeca.

This translated to a loss of 800,000t of EU pigmeat exports to Russia, including 350,000t of fat and by-products.

‘Glimmer of hope’

“Russia was an extremely important market for several industries, and it had a significant effect on values for UK pig producers back in 2014,” said independent pig industry consultant Peter Crichton.

Mr Crichton added that even though a lifting of the ban was unlikely, there was no guarantee the Russians would take EU pork and could find alternative sources from South America.

“From a UK perspective, there may be a glimmer of an opportunity to export to Russia after we leave the EU and revive demand that had been there originally.”

However, he added: “A glimmer is really all there is.”