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Russian food embargo eased – great news for Western producers

Western food exporters have been given a glimpse of hope that they could soon begin shipping their produce to Russian markets once more. It was announced on June 1 2016 that the Russian government has decided to ease its food embargos.
Frozen beef, poultry meat and dried and frozen vegetables, specifically for use in baby food, can now be imported to Russia. The announcement was made via a ruling published on the Russian Legal Information Service’s official website.
Importers will have to prove that their products entering Russia are intended for children’s consumption. As such, Russia’s Ministry of Agriculture has been set the task of developing methods for authenticating these deliveries. The ministry will also determine the acceptable volumes of imported produce that are no longer effected by the food ban. 
This latest easing of import restrictions should be great news for those countries affected by the food embargo. EU member states, the United States, Canada, Australia, and Norway have all been subject to numerous food bans since doling out separate sanctions on Russia in August 2014. Ukraine was later added to the embargo.
All meat, poultry, fish, seafood, and dairy products, alongside vegetables and fruits and nuts, produced in the affected countries were included under Russia’s embargo. However, there has been some relaxing in the rules related to affected product groups since 2014. 
Lactose-free dairy products, special items destined for use by athletics on Russia’s various national sports teams, and biologically active additives and vitamin-mineral complexes were soon removed for the list of banned food items.
The lifting of food import restrictions, at least in the baby food sector, suggests domestic supply of key ingredients is not meeting demand. A space for Western exporters to get their products back into the Russian market has been created – very welcome given the state of exports/imports over the past 18 months. 

Russian food embargo: calls for caution

While the call for baby food ingredients suggests a degree of progress in terms of Russian-Western cooperation, producers should not necessarily set their hopes too high. A complete repeal of food bans is unlikely to happen during 2016. 
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev ordered the government to extend the embargo until at least the end of 2017. In doing so, Medvedev is claiming to protect the interests of the domestic agricultural industry.

"Those in the agricultural business and industry – both large agricultural companies and relatively small ones – will receive a longer period for planning their investments, something they had asked us for on many occasions,” Medvedev said at a meeting with members of the Russian Industrialists and Entrepreneurs Union in May 2016. “They will also have the opportunity to see what will happen in the longer future."
While bans will remain in place throughout 2016, the easing of restrictions does point towards an overall more collaborative environment between Russia and the West being established. It is hoped more products will soon be exempt from import prohibitions. 
The fact that the above products are now available for export to Russia is a good sign progress is being made towards resuming regular trade practices. Cautious optimism is advised from here on out.


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Tony Higginson

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