Following the discovery of African swine fever (ASF) in our country in September 2018, thirty countries and regions temporarily restricted the export of Belgian pork. Fourteen countries have since lifted that embargo on Belgian pork. This is announced by the Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain (FASFC). For the Belgian Meat Office, the reopening of those markets is very important. “It concerns various markets that purchase a wide variety of meat products,” says Joris Coenen. ^>
Belgium regained its ASF-free status on 1 October 2020. The publication by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) took place on 21 December 2020. Afterwards, the FASFC started negotiations with the countries and regions that had restricted the export of Belgian pork.
Meanwhile, South Korea, South Africa, Singapore, Belarus, Mexico, Uruguay, Ukraine, Russia, the French overseas territory New Caledonia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Thailand and Nicaragua have already lifted the embargo. Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines did so even before the OIE published its report.
Japan is the 14th country to lift the embargo on Belgian pork. “This is another important step, as Japan is one of the world’s largest importers of pork,” says Joris Coenen of the Belgian Meat Office (BMO), VLAM’s meat export agency.
In 2018, before the embargo, Belgium exported almost 600 tonnes of meat to Japan. “That is not a large amount compared to what some other countries buy. And I do not expect Japan to suddenly import huge volumes from our country,” Joris Coenen tempers the expectations. “But Japan’s strict sanitary regulations make it a model in the region. The reopening of that market is therefore an important signal to third countries (countries outside the EU, ed.) that are yet to take this step.”
Due to its strict sanitary regulations, Japan is a model in the region. The reopening of that market is therefore an important signal.
“How soon the other embargoes will be lifted is hard to say. Negotiations are ongoing with all of them, and they are going well with some, but not all. Often we can only guess what the exact reasons are, because the OIE report is rock solid. It is also often a matter of getting on speaking terms,” explains Coenen.
Belgium exported some 100,000 tons of pork to third countries before the ASF crisis. That share is quite small. “The core of the market remains Belgium and our surrounding countries in Europe,” said Coenen, pointing out that 80 to 90 per cent of Belgian pork remains within European borders.
Outside Europe, the biggest customers are China, South Korea and the Philippines. “Importers from these countries are looking for a variety of quality products, which is something we can offer. At the same time, this is important for us in terms of the value creation of pork,” explains Coenen.
In some countries, certain parts of the pig that are less popular in our regions are highly valued. “A good meat cutter makes sure he gets the most out of a carcass. That is the biggest challenge for many companies.”
Importers from these countries are looking for a variety of quality products, which is something we can offer. At the same time, this is important for us in terms of the value creation of pork
“But that is precisely why these diverse markets are so important. If we do not get rid of some parts, they end up in the rubbish. With a view to circularity and sustainability, these are very important data,” says Coenen.
The reopening of 14 third countries is also a good thing because Europe is a net exporter. We export more than we import. Or: our production is higher than our consumption. Trade with countries outside Europe is therefore a matter of course.
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