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2. Farmers' protests

Following widespread demonstrations by farmers during the summer, the EU Council finally announced a package of support for the agricultural sector. For the EU pig industry, this will mean the introduction of a new private storage scheme for pig meat in the coming months.

The summer was marked by demonstrations across Europe as livestock farmers sought to highlight their increasingly desperate situation.

French pig farmers take their protest to supermarket aisles.

Farmers from across the EU united in angry protests in Brussels in early September, ahead of the emergency meeting of the EU Agricultural Council to debate measures in response to the economic crisis affecting livestock producers.

Call for ‘fair’ milk prices on the streets of Brussels.

New EU package for agricultural support

Farmers arrive in Brussels.

Following the Council meeting, the EU Commission announced further details of a €500 million support 'package' for EU farmers. There were two main initiatives of interest to EU pig producers. Firstly, the EU Commission will introduce proposals for a new ‘private storage’ scheme for pig meat. It is expected that a scheme will be opened in late 2015 or early 2016 and will include fats and by-products this time round – these product categories were particularly affected by the Russian embargo on EU pig meat exports.

The package also commits to additional funding for generic pig meat promotion over the next few years. Demand for pig meat products within most major EU markets has been quiet for much of 2015, as poor weather across Europe has depressed sales and has been an additional factor in depressing prices.

Russian dispute unresolved

The effects of the Russian embargo continued to weigh heavily on the EU pig meat markets during this year. Overall exports of EU pig meat exports to Third Countries remained at healthy levels, aided and abetted by a weak €, with China taking significantly larger tonnages of EU product. However, EU exporters have found it difficult to find replacement markets for fats and trim, and returns for these products have been adversely affected.

Although an early resolution of the trade dispute with Russia still seems unlikely, there has been more optimism expressed recently that some sort of reinstatement of trade may be possible, as fats and trim are not included on the list of products included in the trade embargo announced following the crisis in Ukraine in August 2014. These products were banned earlier in 2014, following the outbreak of African Swine Fever in a number of the EU Member States adjacent to the Russian border in January 2014.

In the longer term, although Russia will be far more self-sufficient regarding its overall production of pig meat, the traditionally high level of domestic demand for sausages and other processed products will still necessitate imports of fats, trim and other by-products.