France puts pig ban on hold

By Sybille de La Hamaide, Reuters

Posted at May 06 2014 12:05 AM | Updated as of May 06 2014 08:05 AM

PARIS - France has suspended a unilateral decision to ban imports of pigs and pork-based by-products from the United States, Canada, Mexico and Japan to protect against a virus pending the outcome of an European Union meeting on Tuesday, the farm ministry said.

The ban was due to be issued on Saturday in a bid to ward off a virus that has killed pigs in North America and Asia. The virus, porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv), has killed around 7 million young pigs since first identified in the United States almost a year ago.

"We have suspended the publication of the decree. We are waiting for the meeting tomorrow," a spokeswoman for France's agriculture ministry said on Monday.

"If there is no agreement (to ban imports at the meeting), our national authorities we will go ahead with their decision," she said. "This gives a chance to take a collective approach."

A spokesman for the European Commission, the EU executive, confirmed the subject would be discussed at a regular meeting of experts representing EU member states to be held on Tuesday. The item was added on the agenda on Friday, he said.

Reacting to France's decision on Friday, Germany and Denmark, two of the European Union's largest pork producers, had said they would hold back from taking any decision on the matter until the EU meeting.

The French farm ministry's deputy director general and chief veterinary officer had said last week the ban would target all by-products made from pigs, live animals and sperm, and would mainly affect animal feed with current exports mainly coming from Canada. Restrictions would not include pork meat for human consumption as the disease is not harmful to humans, he said.

The virus has cut hog supplies in the United States and sent prices to record highs.

EU sources said that to their knowledge there were no live U.S. pigs imported into the 28-member bloc.

Animal feed is suspected to have been involved in transmission of the disease in the United States.