SASKATOON, Saskatchewan (Reuters) - Russia has partly lifted its ban on Canadian pork, easing one of the major trade impediments that have been straining Canada's pork industry since the outbreak of H1N1 flu in April.
Russia has lifted its ban on imports of pork from the province of Quebec, Canada's International Trade Minister Stockwell Day said on Friday. The ban remains in place on uncooked pork from neighboring Ontario.
Day visited Russia in late June, and government officials there initially refused to lift the ban on Canadian swine and pork because of their contention that the H1N1 virus is more rampant in Canada than in the United States.
Effective June 30, Russia lifted H1N1-related restrictions on pork and pork products from Quebec that were produced before June 2 and after June 30. Russia also lifted restrictions against some Ontario beef and poultry products.
The ban on Ontario pork remains in place because of the prevalence of the H1N1 virus in humans in Canada's most populous province, said Jacques Pomerleau, executive director of Canada Pork International, a marketing agency for the export pork industry.
"(The easing of the ban) is still significant because (Quebec) is where most of the (pork processing) plants are based in Canada," Pomerleau said. "But it's not the total picture."
But an official with the Federation of Quebec Pork Producers said only two of the province's plants, DuBreton Pork and Lucyporc, export to Russia.
Canada exported 125,000 tonnes of pork last year to Russia, its third-largest market.
The H1N1 flu hit the pork industry hard when it was initially called the swine flu. The April 28 quarantine of a herd of H1N1 flu-infected pigs in the western province of Alberta drew bans from more countries, including China, which bans imports of pork and swine from Alberta only.
The Alberta farmer has since slaughtered his pigs, saying he didn't think he could find a market for them.
Banning Canadian pork over the flu outbreak is "totally unfair," said Wilma Jeffray, chairwoman of Ontario Pork and a hog farmer near Guelph, Ontario.
"For Russia to ban Canadian pork at all just does not make sense period," she said. "...It's just an example of how they apply principles that aren't science-based to trade."
Jeffray downplayed any concern that the Russian ban may stain the reputation of Ontario's hog industry.
"For people looking at this, a lot of them will recognize it for what it is -- a non-tariff trade barrier that they've imposed."
The Canadian hog industry has also seen access narrow to its primary export market for live hogs, the United States, because of new regulations on country of origin labeling that have led U.S. packers to buy fewer Canadian pigs.
Mexico and the United States have also become targets of pork and swine bans since the flu outbreak.
Russia had earlier lifted its ban on pork and swine from the provinces of Alberta, Nova Scotia and British Columbia.
More than a dozen other countries are believed to still have at least partial bans on Canadian pork or swine.
Reporting by Rod Nickel; editing by Rob Wilson