LONDON – The European Union could face sharp declines in beef prices on concerns importing countries may ban EU beef because of the Schmallendberg virus, according to a Bloomberg report citing information from Rabobank International.

Russia said it would ban shipments of cattle and hogs from Europe from March 20 because of the virus, which causes stillbirths and deformities in offspring. The Schmallenberg virus has so far been found on 923 farms in Germany, 670 in France and 158 in the United Kingdom. EU meat prices will fall if other countries follow Russia's lead or Russia expands its ban.

EU beef prices rose sharply by 20 percent to 3.92 euros a kilogram, or $2.34 a lb. in the first two months of 2012 compared to 2011. Pork prices advanced 11 percent and lamb rose 10 percent.