Russia on Tuesday threatened a ban of Western European beef and livestock imports after a virus that was previously known to affect goats and sheep was also discovered in cattle this week.
The Schmallenberg virus, named after the German town where it was first diagnosed last year, has been found in newborn Belgian, Dutch and German calves, lambs and kids. The disease is transmitted by means of insect vectors and has been detected in fourteen Belgian, 52 Dutch and twenty German farms.
Mexico and Russia banned imports of sheep and goat meat as well as live animals from the three countries last week. Russia says it could ban cattle imports too if it isn’t satisfied that the virus will be contained. It is also considering a pan-European import ban which the European Commission insists is unnecessary because livestock in other countries isn’t known to have been infected.
It is the second time in less than a year that a trade ban pits the Russians against the EU. Last summer, Moscow prohibited European vegetable imports after a deadly outbreak of E. coli in France and Germany. The Dutch at the time managed to negotiate an exemption for their agricultural sales.
Russian beef imports from the European Union more than doubled last year as the euro weakened against the ruble while currencies in South America, where Argentina and Brazil are major exporters, strengthened. Russia is the largest meat importer in the world.