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Russia bans Egyptian fruit & vegetable imports

In a move that could cause consternation throughout the food and beverage industry, Russia has banned Egyptian imports of fruit and vegetables. 

The ban, which was announced on Friday 16 September 2016, and put into place on Thursday 22 September 2016, is due to sanitary concerns. Rosselkhoznadzor, Russia’s food health and safety watchdog, confirmed the ban. It noted that Egyptian exporters have failed to comply with Russia’s phytosanitary rules.

According to Rosselkhoznadzor’s Deputy Head, Julia Shvabauskene, several banned substances and organisms have been found in Egyptian shipments of fruits and vegetables, such as the Mediterranean fruit fly. 

Affected products include citrus fruit, tomatoes and potatoes. Fruits and vegetables are major export commodities for Egypt, particularly on the Russian market. 44% of all of Egypt’s exports to Russia in 2015 were fresh fruit. 

Valued at over $183 million, these shipments demonstrate how vital trade between Russia and Egypt is for both countries – especially in the face of other ongoing bans on Turkish and EU-sourced produce entering Russia.

The above figure does not take into account vegetables either. Egyptian potatoes, in particular, are in high demand in Russia. Daltex, a Cairo-based grower of fruit and vegetables, for example, ships between 50,000 to 70,000 tons of potatoes to Russia annually. 

The ban comes after Egypt made changes to import regulations pertaining to wheat imports. Egypt is the world’s largest importer of wheat and is reliant on Russia for much of its cereal crop supply.  

Now, wheat exports destined for Egypt must not feature any traces of ergot fungus in order to pass regulations – a measure that hurt Russian exporters. Previously, the level was capped at 0.05% - an amount considered harmless. 

Ms. Shvabauskene has declined to comment on whether Russia’s latest food ban was influenced by the changes in Egyptian import regulations.

The ban is expected to last until the end of 2016 when strategic talks between both states are scheduled to take place. 

While one door may have been temporarily closed on Egypt, a window of opportunity may have been opened for exporters from other countries. Companies from Egypt’s regional neighbours, and around the world including Asia and South America, may have to pick up the slack and fill the Egypt-shaped hole in Russia’s fruits and vegetables import sector.

Russia has currently banned all imports of food coming from EU member states, Turkey, Norway, the United States and Canada.

Sources: Just-food.comCNBC.com 

Image: © Amr Aby El-Saadat via Flickr


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