Not so long ago the media space was filled with information on "cheese war" with Russia, and Belarus allied with Russia on this issue. And against such background a new incident appears: the State veterinary and sanitary service of Ukraine temporary bans starting on March 1 the import of milk and dairy products from Belarus, as well as meat of animals, amenable to African swine fever, mainly pork.

The Ukrainian veterinary service reported Wednesday that during February the state sanitary control department revealed systematic violations of the veterinary and sanitary requirements of Ukraine. In particular, the maximal levels of concentration of veterinary drugs were exceeded in the Belarusian dairy products.

"And this in its turn indicates regular violations and lack of state control over veterinary drug use and observance of requirements of the importing country by Belarusian enterprises," the State veterinary service says in a statement.

The State vet service also reminded that on February 16 in the village of Niaznanava in Navagrudak district in Belarus, the entire pig population of the private farms was withdrawn and eliminated (burned). According to the statements of the Belarusian Ministry of Agriculture and the Department of Veterinary and Food Control, such measures were taken within a training course against African swine fever virus.

"Taking into account that Belarus is a member of the Customs Union, which implies neither customs nor veterinary control at the state borders with Russia where the situation with African swine fever has been complicated for the last five years, there is a risk of African swine fever virus coming to Ukraine from Russia via Belarus," the Ukrainian department notes.

According to the State vet service, in case of contamination on Ukraine's territory, the authorities would have to ban grain export, eliminate considerable part of pig population and take other limiting measures, which would bring negative for economy consequences.

"Situation with ASF in Russia and Belarus threatens biosecurity of Ukraine," the State service declares. In this connection the meat and milk import from Belarus is banned until all circumstances are clarified.

ForUm decided to ask experts whether Belarusian dairy is that dangerous or Belarus just has to pay for Russian ban on Ukrainian cheese import.

Elizaveta Svyatkivska, executive director of Ukrainian club of agrarian business:

- Ukrainian veterinary service also tries to act within current legislation, and if there are suspected violations this or that production undergoes control. If violations are confirmed the production is temporary banned, so Belarusian or any other side can improve the situation.

Speaking about Russian ban on Ukrainian cheese, the matter concerns certain violations of quality, about which the Ukrainian side was warned. And now we have temporary ban to remove these violations and improve the quality.

Recently we had similar situation with Ukrainian poultry. There also was a ban from the Russian side, and our enterprises had two months to eliminate violations. There was no fuzzbuzz about that situation and from February 2 we resumed import. It was a working moment, and Belarusian products are dealing with similar working moment now.

Valery Muntiyan, governmental representative on cooperation with Russia and CIS countries:

- I am afraid that the "background" is not only the cheese issue, but also unfriendly Belarusian policy regarding Ukrainian stainless pipes. In June of 2011 Customs Union commission of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia introduced antidumping fees on import of our pipes. Later we agreed with the Customs union to replace fees with quotas.

However, Minsk keeps blocking de-facto the supplies of Ukrainian pipes to Customs Union countries. Under such circumstances it is not surprising that Ukraine has taken strict position regarding certain issues. It does not mean 'war', but a call for a dialogue.

Oleksandr Paliy, independent expert:

- I think there are several reasons for ban, including politics, but mostly this is protection of domestic dairy producers. While Russia is pushing them out of its market Ukrainian producers needs to regain inner market.

And it is true that Lukashenko supported Russian ban on Ukrainian cheese.

Belarusian dairy production, unlike Russian one, is a direct rival to Ukrainian goods. Belarusian dairy production is of normal quality with adequate prices, and domestic producers are interested in ban on Belarus products. The matter is not about customs war, but about protection of domestic producers.

Evgen Leshan, independent expert:

- Belarusian production cannot be considered of poor quality, because it is not. Moreover, Belarusian requirements to food quality are tougher than Ukrainian ones. We can see many new shops with Belarusian products opening all over the country.

National producers do not like it and they use old and tried-and-true techniques - introduction of protective measures against import. The more so, cheese war creates a suitable background.

Taras Chornovil, MP of Ukraine (non-factional), deputy head of parliamentary committee on foreign affairs:

- Something about protection of consumers' rights does not fit. Yes, the Belarusians have certain problems with livestock diseases, especially with pigs, and something not quite understandable happened in the village of Niaznanava in Navagrudak district. But as for the ban on dairy products, I think Ukraine has decided to show its temper. Russia hit us with a bat, and Belarus, which supported Russia, was caught in crossfire.

As for Russia itself, due to the high level of corruption in its sanitary service Russian products are of low quality and with large share of forbidden ingredients. And we have never even tried to apply sanctions to ban this or that production.

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