Canadian pork producers are worried because Russia is banning food imports from Canada, the U.S. and other countries for a year.
The move is in response to sanctions imposed on Russia over the crisis in Ukraine.
Russia has the importation banned meat, fish, milk and milk products, fruit and vegetables.
According to Canada Pork International, which represents Canadian pork exporters, Russia was the third largest importer of Canadian pork behind the United States and Japan in 2012.
Last year, Canada exported about $500 million in pork to Russia, 65 per cent of which came from Quebec, said Gaelle Leruste, comminucations advisor for the Quebec Pork Producers Federation.
“The impact will be immediate on processors but will also have an impact on our producers because we’re working together,” Leruste said.
Industry Minister James Moore said the retaliatory sanctions were serious, but since Canada now has free trade agreements with 43 countries, he expected farmers would be able to find new markets.
He also said that Canada would not be deterred from imposing more sanctions on Russia if that country does not cease hostilities in Ukraine.
“It’s very important that Canada and all of our allies and all those who have rhetorically opposed the belligerent and irresponsible behaviour of Mr. Putin stand firm, that we not be intimidated,” said Moore.
Still, Russia represents 10 per cent of the Canadian market for pork products, and farmers want the embargo lifted quickly.
But according to Colin Robertson, a former diplomat who helped implement the North American Free Trade Agreement, that won’t be so simple.
“The problem here is that over half the world doesn’t have sanctions against Russia. The Chinese don’t the Brazilians don’t the South Africans don’t so there are alternate places where Russia can find goods,” he explained.
In a news release, Quebec-based meat packing and food processing company Olymel said it will “every effort to find other outlets for products that were destined for the Russian market in order to reduce the impact of this decision.”
Leruste said with pork prices relatively high and expected to stay that high through to next year, farmers believe they should be able to cope with the sanctions.
So far, there are no plans to compensate farmers for any potential loss in markets, Moore said.