Baltics want end to pork war

  • 1998-12-03
  • Paul Beckman
VILNIUS - Now that the have spent the past two months finding ways to rejecte each other's pork imports, Lithuania and Estonia have recently appeared more willing to difuse their trade war.

After officials of the Lithuanian State Veterinary Service met with Estonian counterparts halfway in Latvia last week, they returned to Vilnius declaring an end to the war on pork imports as of Dec. 1.

According to Jonas Burokas of the LSVS, each side's promise to guarantee the required level of quality control has relaxed the previously strained situation.

The relationship between Lithuania and Estonia began to sour at the beginning of October. LSVS accused Estonian meat company Rakvere Lihakombinaat of importing meat from the United States and Canada, which is unacceptable by European Union standards. Thus, Rakvere was restricted to importing meat originally from Finland.

After later loosening the restrictions to some degree, the Estonians landed a blow half a month later by claiming Lithuanian pork was of an unacceptable standard because Lithuanian pigs were being injected with a vaccine to prevent "swine disease."

The Lithuanians then returned the favor by declaring Estonian pork contained an objectionable level of lead.

Now both sides appear to be back-pedaling and seeking to return to a common quality control agreement already in existence. According to the agreement, the quality control standards in all countries should be equal, and in line with the EU requirements. In essence, should one country's veterinary board give its approval to a product, the other two countries should also respect that judgement and allow the product into their markets.

"At the conference in Riga, each of the three states received guarantees of quality control," said Burokas.

"The Estonians promised their products would not contain any meat from North America and that lead levels would also be controlled."

Burokas said a sticking point between the two sides involved the swine disease vaccines. The Lithuanian side claims such preventive steps are necessary considering problems which occur in neighboring Kaliningrad and Belarus. While Burokas admitted the European Union does not implement such measures on their own pigs, he stated that Lithuania cannot afford to react in the same manner as the EU should such a disease take hold.

"Countries within the EU feel they do not need vaccines," said Burokas. "If an outbreak occurs, they feel it is better for the farmers to slaughter the infected animals. The farmers' situation goes unchanged because they will receive subsidies for their actions. In Lithuania, we cannot afford to do this, so we feel it is better to protect against it."

According to a report by the Baltic News Service, the Estonian veterinary board agreed to revoke their ban on the Lithuanian pork. With the war cooling, both sides are expecting to return to business as usual.

Burokas stated that in reality, only a small percentage of exported Lithuanian meat ends up in Estonia. The LSVS reported that of the 1,800 tons of beef which has been exported so far this year, only 64 tons has gone to Estonia. The biggest bulk is exported to Russia and other nations in the Commonwealth of Independent States.

Of Lithuania's 400 tons of pork exports this year, the CIS again ate up 341 tons of it.