RUSSIA plans to extend a ban on European food imports for another year – until August 2016 – after the EU prolonged economic sanctions on the country for six months on June 22.
The move was announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin at a government meeting on June 24th. The plan follows a decision by EU Foreign Affairs Ministers to extend sanctions on Russia until January 31st, 2016 over the continued crisis in eastern Ukraine. In a decree issued by the Kremlin on June 25, the list of banned products from the EU, US, Canada, Australia and Norway looks set to remain the same including beef, pork, poultry, fish and milk & dairy products (except for special lactose-free milk and dairy products).
The one-year extension will come as a blow to Europe’s farmers, who were hit hard by the introduction of the ban in August last year. Russia accounted for almost a quarter of EU agri-food exports in 2013, which have dropped by over 40% - falling from €8.6 billion to €5 billion - for the period August 2014 to April 2015 compared to the same period the previous year.
Before the ban, Ireland exported €8.6 million worth of dairy products to the Russian market, which has been slashed by 96% to just over €328,000. However, despite the Kremlin’s embargo, total EU agri-food exports to third countries rose by 5% from August 2014 to May 2015 compared to the same period the previous year, driven by a surge in the value of exports to the US and China as well as Hong Kong, South Korea and Turkey.
The Irish Department of Agriculture and Food confirmed that the final test results on a suspected case of BSE in a five-year old dairy cow a fortnight ago returned positive, saying it was an ‘isolated’ case of classical BSE in a single animal. The confirmation – the first new case in nearly two years – means that Ireland will revert to a ‘controlled-risk’ status, having recently been upgraded to the ‘negligible risk’ category by the World Organisation for Animal Health.
But international beef markets in the US and Japan are not expected to be impacted by the announcement. In a statement issued by the Department on June 25, officials confirmed that the Rotbunt cow’s offspring and all other animals potentially exposed to the fatal neurodegenerative disease – born and bred on the same farm in Co Louth one year either side of her birth, which might have consumed the same feed – have been traced, killed and destroyed and excluded from the food chain.
The Department said the infected animal’s mother (dam) and imported grand dam also tested negative for BSE, therefore, ‘vertical transmission’ was not considered to be a factor. Government officials are also keen to stress that there were ‘no concerns regarding the integrity of the commercial feed supply chain or the effectiveness of the feed control systems’.
The Luxembourg Presidency took over the reins from Latvia in the running of the day to day business of the EU on July 1st. The so-called Grand Duchy, with a population of just over 500,000 people, takes to the helm when the Greek bailout crisis and the country’s possible exit from the euro currency union dominates the headlines.
On the agricultural front, Luxembourg plans to finalise a deal on organic reform with MEPs by the end of the year, steer talks on Commission plans to allow national bans on use of genetically modified (GM) animal feed and monitor agricultural market situations. The impact of the abolition of milk quotas will also be a top priority for the dairy-producing country, which has been repeatedly hit by superlevy penalties for more than a decade.
The small Member State has a big agenda over the next six months - at a time when the unpredictable Greek drama continues to unfold.
• Rose O’Donovan is the Editor-in-Chief of the Brussels-based publication AGRA FACTS & a regular contributor to www.vieuws.eu