As pig producers across the globe struggled to meet the challenges posed by rapidly escalating feed costs, veterinary matters continued to figure prominently in the ‘trade-political’ arena of the international pig meat trade.
Most market pundits forecast a difficult few months for pig producers across the globe, as there appears to be no evidence of any slow down in the rise of feed costs and there will be an inevitable time lag in prices rising to reflect these higher costs This development will lead to less efficient producers leaving the industry and a shrinking supply of pigs both within the EU and the major producing countries in Asia and the Americas. The future position in Europe will be more difficult to call until the impact of the introduction of the new EU welfare rules from January 2013 becomes apparent.
Russia formally joined the World Trade Organisation in August, which eventually will lead to the opening up of the domestic market for imports. In the meantime, Russia is still locked in a dispute with the EU authorities about the continuing ban on EU livestock. The ban was introduced earlier this year due to concerns about the Schmallenberg virus, which appeared in the sheep population in a number of EU countries, including Germany and Britain. The ban initially applied to sheep and cattle but was subsequently extended to pigs.
The UN Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO) recently expressed concerns about the continuing outbreaks of African Swine Fever among pigs in the Russian Federation, which has now spread beyond its borders into the Ukraine.
There is also a potential international trade dispute developing over the use of a beta-agonist, ractopamine. This feed additive is used to promote lean meat growth in livestock, and its use is permitted in the US, Brazil and most SE Asian countries. The FAO/WHO body, ‘Codex Alimentarius’, whose aim is to harmonise food and veterinary standards across the world, recently proposed ‘Minimum Residue Levels’ for this substance, acknowledging that when used in livestock at low levels it did not present a risk to human health. The move was not accepted by Russia or the EU, where its use is banned. A similar dispute exists between the EU and the US regarding the use of hormones in beef production.