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Russia WTO ruling a 'political victory' - but don't export the exports to flow

30th Aug 2016 / By Alistair Driver

The recent WTO verdict on the illegality Russia's EU pork ban is increasingly being interpreted as more of a political victory than one that will bring immediate tangible reward to producers.

The WTO ruling relates to a ban imposed by Russia in early 2014 because of a limited number of cases of African Swine Fever (ASF) in areas in the EU close to the border with Belarus.

It is not to be confused with the wider ban on EU-agri-food product, also put in place in 2014 but this time over a spat between the EU and Moscow over Ukraine.

The WTO ruling has been widely welcomed in the EU. However, EU farming representative body Copa and Cogeca has cautioned it could easily by 2018 before EU pig producers see any marketplace benefit.

Copa and Cogeca secretary-general, Pekka Pesonen, said the Russian authorities were likely to appeal against the ruling within the next 60 days.

"That means farmers may not see the benefits of it before 2018," he said, pointing out that, prior to the ban being imposed in 2014, Russia imported 24 per cent of the EU's pigmeat exports, with an average annual value of about €1.4 billion (£1.2bn).

Given that he believes the process of removing the ban in practical terms could still be more than a year away, Mr Pesonen urged the EU to keep working on the issue, despite the WTO judgement.

AHDB Pork, meanwhile, has described the WTO judgement as more of a 'political win' than a development that will see a material step-change in the market.

A lot has changed across the global pigmeat market since Russia imposed its ban on EU imports in 2014.

The EU has developed a 'burgeoning trade' with the Far East, which allied with Russia's commitment to be self-sufficient in pigmeat by 2020, have significantly changed the trading goalposts.

So even if Russia decided to obey the WTO ruling and lift the current sanctions, that will have less of an impact across the EU than would have been the case 12 months ago, the levy board said.

With the wider EU agri-food ban still in place, a lifting of the pigmeat ban would largely affect products like fats and offals, although this would still be welcome given how difficult it has proved to find alternative markets for these products, it added.

"The second outcome that may occur, of course, is that Russia may choose to ignore the (WTO) outcome and keep its sanctions in place," said AHDB Pork. "Should this be the case, the EU may impose retaliatory sanctions in place on Russian products."

All of which points to the conclusion, as this website cautioned when we first reported the story, that this 'political victory' will probably remain as just that for the time being at least.