The National Pork Producers Council today said it expects the restrictions placed on U.S. pork exports by certain nations due to concerns about the H1N1 virus to be temporary.

“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 percent safe to consume,” says Nick Giordano, NPPC vice president and international trade counsel. “NPPC has been in constant contact with U.S. trade officials, and USDA 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 today named the virus “Influenza A,” and the World Organization for Animal Health 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 USDA, 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 the virus 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.

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

While the current export restrictions are manageable, Giordano points out, 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.

Pork exports in 2008 accounted for more than 20 percent of total U.S. pork production, contributed approximately $48 per hog harvested and supported more than 65,000 U.S. jobs. The creation of new export opportunities and the maintenance of existing export markets are critical to the sustainability of the U.S. pork industry.

Source: NPPC