Belgium’s struggling pig farming sector received some good news in the form of a lifting of embargos on Belgian pork for some of the countries which had banned imports after citing concerns regarding African Swine Fever (ASF).
South Korea, which is considered a priority country for the Belgian pork sector, was one of those to recently drop its import ban.
“That is excellent news for our livestock farmers,” said MP Leen Dierick (CD&V), who requested the initial figures.
ASF has had a tremendous impact on the pig sector for some time, with many embargoes from countries outside of the EU lasting for over two years, according to the Flemish infocentre for agriculture and horticulture (VILT).
Belgium has been officially recognized as an ASF-free country since the end of December 2020, but 12 of the 17 non-EU countries that imposed an embargo continue to block imports of Belgian pork, citing ASF.
“The countries that still maintain an embargo on the entire Belgian territory are Taiwan, China, Belarus, Australia, Japan, Uruguay, Colombia, Barbados, the Dominican Republic, Sri Lanka, the Seychelles and Peru,” said Minister of Agriculture David Clarinval (MR).
“The situation is currently still blocked in Belarus and China. For Uruguay, an active demarche was again requested from our local posts. India, Vietnam and Kazakhstan have already been applying regionalisation for some time. This amounts to an almost complete opening of the market for Belgian pork in these three countries.”
The remaining bans on Belgian pork exist at a time when pig farmers are already struggling.
In a recent open letter from one of the sector’s unions, they declared that “the farmer is the weakest link in the chain,” and that “this weakest link is broken,” going on to explain that this brokenness is both financial and mental.
The poultry sector is similarly suffering due to bans related to disease: in their case, bird flu.
“For them, it will be a matter of waiting for the declaration of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) to declare Belgium bird flu-free again,” said Dierick.
There are currently 24 embargoes in force for the Belgian poultry sector due to bird flu.
The Federal Food Agency (FASFC) asked the OIE for bird flu-free status in May, after detecting no outbreaks of the bird flu virus since March of this year.
The OIE is waiting for additional information, but is expected to grant Belgium the bird flu-free status in the coming weeks.
The countries with restrictions on important Belgian poultry are South Africa, Israel, Hong Kong, Singapore, China, Morocco, Korea, Cuba, United Arab Emirates, Japan, Russia, Philippines, Mexico, Ukraine, Taiwan, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Suriname, Tunisia, Oman, Kuwait, Thailand and New Caledonia.
Dierick emphasised the importance of sending envoys to some of these countries in order to convince them that it was safe to reopen their markets.
“I am looking forward to Minister Clarinval’s initiative to send more FASFC attachés to other countries that are of great importance for the export of our agricultural products,” said Dierick.
“Close and constructive contact with the local authorities and trading companies is vital for our economy. Our farmers will certainly appreciate this, and need this boost.”