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Northey asks why U.S. pork still being banned?

By Staff | Jun 5, 2009

DES MOINES – Just how it’s costing Iowa pork producers is hard to determine, but Bill Northey, Iowa secretary of agriculture, expressed Monday his concern that 18 countries continue to ban or restrict U.S. pork imports.

The countries took action in response to the H1N1 flu outbreak despite the fact that properly cooked and handled pork and pork products are safe, as confirmed by U.S. and international health organizations.

The countries still banning all U.S. pork include China, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, St. Lucia, Indonesia, Thailand, Bahrain, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia and Armenia. Russia has banned pork from selected states, but not from Iowa, said Dustin Vande Hoef, media contact for Northey.

Korea has banned the import of live hogs. Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Macedonia also have unofficial bans in place.

Vande Hoef said that in 2008, China alone imported $700 million in U.S. pork. At that level, China’s ban would have cost U.S. producers $58.3 million during the past month. Since Iowa produces 20 percent of the national swine supply, Iowa’s potential dollar loss is $11.6 million just from China’s ban.

“We don’t understand why all of these restrictions are still in place,” said Ron Birkenholz, IPPA’s communications manager. “We hope they’ll open the markets soon. Pork producers are hurting.”

The H1N1 outbreak came at a bad time for pork producers. Despite the slumping economy, noted Erin Seidler, public information officer for the Iowa Department of Economic Development, Iowa’s pork imports totaled $260.2 million from January through March this year, well over the same period in 2008 at $168.9 million.

Seidler added that exports of swine offal, livers and frozen products totaled $22 million during the first three months of 2009, up from $20 million a year earlier.

“We do expect (an annual) softening of exports from April through June,” Seidler said, “but as this virus thing plays out, we expect things to improve.”

“Iowa is the number one pork-producing state in the nation and Iowa farmers who raise hogs face significant hardship due to the actions of these countries,” Northey said.

“Now that we have entered prime summer grilling season it’d be great if Iowans threw an extra pork chop on to help Iowa’s hog farmers.”

Contact Larry Kershner at (515) 573-2141, ext. 453 or by e-mail at kersh@farm-news.com.

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