After an attempt to persuade the Polish government to clamp down on producers allegedly dumping pork into Estonia, the government here slapped import duties on Polish pork.
Aivar Pau, spokesman for Estonia's Customs Board, said that from May 18 until this year's end Polish pork would no longer be protected under a free trade agreement between the two countries, which made it exempt from import taxes.
Higher tariffs were imposed to protect local producers who have been suffering from cheap Polish imports since last year, Pau said. Duties will total 22 percent to 66 percent of import value depending on the product.
Pork imported from Poland accounts for a third of the pork sold in Estonia, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.
Local pork processors hailed the decision.
"It would have been unreasonable to impose duties on all pork regardless of its country of origin," said Olle Horm, CEO of Rakvere meat processing plant, which holds a 36 percent share of the pork market.
"The decrease in retail pork prices was caused by subsidized Polish pork alone."
The average retail price of 1 kilogram of pork is about 20 kroons (1.20 euros).
Poland has been heavily subsidizing pork exports since January, providing Polish producers with a competitive edge.
Officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said they had addressed the issue with their Polish counterparts with no success and agreed that the import duties were necessary to stabilize pork prices.
Elmu Paavel, director of the Valga meat processing plant, told the business newspaper Aripaev that protectionist measures were introduced too late.
"It should have been done in February when the volume of Polish pork import had skyrocketed," he said.
He said that the new duties wouldn't have any influence on prices until the fall because of built-up reserves of Polish pork already in Estonia.
The protectionist efforts may not end with pork. The Association of Estonian Meat Processors recently petitioned the government to ban the import of mechanically deboned meat, a key ingredient in sausages.