Efforts to reopen trade in pork continue

by Jay Sjerven
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WASHINGTON — The United States and other pork-exporting countries continued to negotiate with certain importing nations over bans and other restrictions placed on the trade in pigs and pork in the wake of the spread of the H1N1 virus.

Several countries, such as China, Russia and Indonesia, banned or restricted the import of pork from the United States, Canada and even European nations. Many of these bans remained in effect, but there were signs they soon may be moderated or lifted.

Larry Pope, chief executive officer of Smithfield Foods, Inc., the largest U.S. pork producing company, said demand from Russia and South Korea was improving. Mr. Pope stated "this thing’s been way overblown."

Joel Haggard, vice-president for Asia/Pacific, U.S. Meat Export Federation, Denver, said the impact of bans on pork imports in Asia have had relatively little effect on overall U.S. exports. Consumption of pork has not lost momentum in Japan. In South Korea, consumption has decreased only about 10% at most, and consumption decreases were minimal in Taiwan and Southeast Asia, Mr. Haggard said.

The Chinese ban on pork imports was still in effect, with China giving "mixed messages," Mr. Haggard said. The Chinese authorities acknowledged the disease is not foodborne but still forbid the import of pigs. Negotiations to reopen the large market were ongoing.

Meanwhile, international agencies, such as the World Organization for Animal Health (O.I.E.) and the World Health Organization (WHO), continued to educate the public about the disease and safety of pork.

U.S Trade Representative Ron Kirk stated in a press conference in Geneva on May 13 that these international organizations reaffirmed there is no danger that individuals might contract the virus by consuming pork and that any country that acted to restrict the importation of pork or live hogs from the United States, Canada or Mexico should do so only on the basis of sound scientific phytosanitary standards established by the WHO.

"The U.S. continues to collaborate with these organizations to re-establish pork trade," Mr. Kirk said.

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