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Russia lifts Turkish food sanctions, tomato ban stays

It has been one of the international food trade’s biggest ongoing tussles, but, in what will come as a relief for Turkish producers, Russia has lifted its ban on food on fruit and vegetable imports from Turkey.

On Monday 22nd May 2017, both nations signed a memorandum agreeing to lift the vast majority of the bilateral trade restrictions laid down in 2015. Crucially, the Russian ban on Turkish tomato imports will remain in place.

Russian government sources have revealed the deal was signed by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich and his Turkish counterpart Mehmet Simsek in Istanbul.
While Russia dropped restrictions on Turkish citrus fruits late last year, tomato imports remain a contentious issue. Around half of the tomatoes consumed in Russia were of Turkish origin prior to 2015’s embargo. Turkey annually exported around 380,000 tons out of its total 540,000-ton yearly tomato exports to Russia.
Speaking after a summit between Russian premiere Putin and his Turkish opposite number Recep Tayyip Erdogan on May 3 2017, Arkady Dvokovich commented that restrictions on Turkish tomatos would remain in place – possibly for another three to five years.

The Russian import ban has had a huge effect on the Turkish economy. Some $875 million worth of fruits and vegetables were exported to Russia each year before sanctions. For context, Turkey’s annual produce exports amount to around $1.9 billion – so around 46% of its total exports were headed to Russia.

Russia has been investing heavily in agriculture to shore up food security by 2020. In particular, it has been building greenhouses in cold weather regions to boost domestic fruit and vegetable supplies.

Despite the tomato tango, Russia and Turkey’s reconciliation should come as welcome news for both Russian consumers and Turkish food producers. 

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