The U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) reported this week that Uzbekistan has reopened to U.S. pork for the first time in three years, lifting an import suspension imposed in response to findings of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) in the U.S. USMEF said Uzbekistan was the only country to ban imports of U.S. pork due to PEDV, although Costa Rica has a PEDV-related ban on U.S. pork casings.
Yuri Barutkin, USMEF regional representative based in St. Petersburg, Russia, explained that the suspension took effect in 2014, shortly after USMEF had launched its first pork marketing efforts in Uzbekistan and initial shipments of U.S. pork had just begun to enter the country’s commercial channels.
He noted that USMEF, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and its industry partners hosted top veterinary officials from Uzbekistan for an educational visit to learn more about U.S. pork production and ease their concerns about PEDV. This helped lay the groundwork for last week’s reopening, which followed a persistent, three-year effort by USDA and the U.S. industry to get import ban lifted.
“It did not happen immediately after that (educational visit), but we never gave up on that, reminding Uzbekistan officials that we need a solution. I’m very pleased to say that three years into the situation, we finally got this restriction lifted,” he said.
While Uzbekistan is likely to remain a small market for U.S. pork, Barutkin said the initial shipments were well received by meat processors, and he feels that U.S. pork can compete very well with pork from the European Union, which is where most of Uzbekistan's pork imports currently originate.
Barutkin said the first trial shipment of U.S. pork had a very good reception. “People complimented the high quality of the product and it’s consistency from box to box," he said. "I think (the) U.S. can compete quite well in that market.”
Barutkin explained that the country's population is predominantly Muslim, but there are a lot of non-religious citizens who do eat pork. Most domestic pork is raised in back yards, and there is no commercial production of pork, he added.