Pork export bans expected to be temporary

by Bryan Salvage
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WASHINGTON — Restrictions placed on U.S. pork exports by certain nations due to concerns about the H1N1 virus are expected to be temporary, stated the National Pork Producers Council.

"The restrictions should be short-lived because U.S. and international authorities have made it clear that the H1N1 virus is transmitted through human contact and that pork is 100%safe to consume," said Nick Giordano, N.P.P.C. vice-president and international trade counsel. "N.P.P.C. has been in constant contact with U.S. trade officials, and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Ron Kirk have been busy working the phones with our trading partners. It is imperative that our trade officials stop the export bleeding now."

The World Health Organization has named the virus, also now known as the 2009 H1N1 flu, "Influenza A." The World Organization for Animal Health (O.I.E.) said the H1N1 influenza should never have been named "swine" flu and there is no justification for the imposition of trade measures on the importation of pigs or their products. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security all confirm there are no food safety issues with the virus and that it is not in the U.S. hog herd.

Despite those facts, Ukraine, St. Lucia, Indonesia, United Arab Emirates, Thailand, Honduras and Croatia have banned U.S. pork imports. Russia and China, which are significant markets for U.S. pork exports, and Kazakhstan have banned U.S. pork from certain states, N.P.P.C. said.

"The U.S. pork industry maintains the capacity to serve the Chinese and Russian markets from non-restricted states," Mr. Giordano said. "The other nations account for only a very small percentage of U.S. pork exports."

Mr. Giordano pointed out while the current export restrictions are manageable, it will be difficult to withstand the loss of further markets. The U.S. pork industry already has lost money for 19 straight months as a result of high input costs, with producers losing an average of $20 per hog marketed, he added.

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