Germany in talks with Asia to lift pork import bans, says minister

FILE PHOTO: The town sign of Gross Drewitz is seen with a note reading "African swine fever in wild pigs, key area", Gross Drewitz, Spree-Neisse, Germany September 12, 2020. REUTERS/Annegret Hilse

HAMBURG (Reuters) - Germany has received some “cautious, positive signals” during talks with Asian nations about easing a ban on German pork imposed after African swine fever (ASF) was found in the European country, the agriculture minister said on Friday.

China and other Asian buyers imposed the ban in September after Germany confirmed its first ASF case, driving down German pork prices. Prices have recently steadied.

ASF is not dangerous to humans but is fatal to pigs. A massive outbreak in China, the world’s biggest pork producer, and elsewhere in Asia changed global pork trade flows.

“We are continuing to work to enable the export of pigmeat in third countries,” Agriculture Minister Julia Kloeckner told a German farming conference.

China, South Korea and Japan are major export markets, particularly for parts Europeans do not eat, she said.

She said talks covered possible “regionalisation agreements” what would involve banning pork only from areas of the country where ASF had been found rather than a blanket national ban.

Kloecker said she met a Japanese delegation on the issue.

“These are the first, cautious positive signals,” she said. “But neither the EU Commission nor an EU member state has been until now able to reach a regionalisation concept with Asia.”

Germany has confirmed 69 ASF cases since Sept. 10, all of them in wild animals rather than farmed pigs.

Reporting by Michael Hogan; Editing by Edmund Blair