An attempt by Finnish food products firm Atria to export thousands of kilogrammes of pork by train earlier this autumn was unsuccessful, the company has confirmed.
During a trial run in late September, a freight train's freezer car that contained around 20,000 kg of pork by-products was stopped at the Russian border due to inadequate export documentation.
The meat stored in the car was subsequently destroyed, according to Atria's President and CEO Juha Grön.
"Yes, it's true. This was a test container and the train transport was not successful," Grön said, adding that the export documents in question were considered to be in order by Atria as well as Finnish authorities.
Grön did not comment on which entity considered the documents to be inadequate.
"In addition to Atria and Finland, there are other countries and actors involved, so I will not comment on this in more detail. When one does something new, there are different opinions about what sort of documents are needed," Grön said.
Up to 20 million kg this year
The tonnes of pork by-products that were destroyed were mainly frozen pork heads and hooves. Grön said that while 20,000 kg is a large amount, it still was relatively small compared to the firm's sea shipments of pork.
Every week, Grön said, Atria exports about a half million kilogrammes of pork products to China on ships. However, shipping them by sea takes around 40 days, while by train the journey would take around two weeks.
"The train route would be faster and certainly more cost-effective. We're going through this trial case carefully and I think one day it will work. We already knew the risks at the outset," Grön said.
Atria's pilot rail shipment of pork departed on 25 September and was scheduled to pass through Russia, Kazakhstan and onward to southwest China's megacity of Chongqing.
Last year Atria exported around nine million kg of pork products to China. This year, according to Grön, the firm plans to export about 15-20 million kg of pork to the Asian country.