Russia’s prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev has announced a total ban on imports of many Western foods in retaliation for sanctions over Ukraine.
There are sweeping restrictions on fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, milk and dairy from the 28 countries of the European Union, the United States, Australia, Canada, Norway and Ukraine – effective for one year.
In Moscow, Irina Kashkadova, a shopper at a high end food store was untroubled saying: “I don’t think we’ll lose anything from this and at the same time we’ll develop our agriculture and make new trade links with other countries.”
Many staples imported
Imported food accounts for 43 percent of what Russians eat according to the Moscow-based think tank the Institute for Complex Strategic Studies, which used Russian government and Eurostat figures.
Half of the cheese consumed comes from abroad, nearly two thirds of the vegetables, and around a quarter of the beef and pork.
Winners and losers
Some countries stand to benefit from the ban – places such as Turkey, Brazil and Chile as well as Serbia, Belarus and Armenia. They can step up food exports.
But Russians will suffer through higher prices and shortages of some goods. That will push up already rising inflation.
As for the effects on farmers in Western producing countries, Stefan Bielmeier, Chief Economist at Germany’s DZ Bank, said: “Southern Europe will be hit hardest, especially Spain and Greece. And Poland will be affected as well as several smaller Eastern European countries. And there’s a chance the United States and their meat exports will be affected. But overall, I don’t expect a great impact.”
Senior agricultural experts from all European Union countries will meet on Aug. 14 in Brussels to debate and analyse the impact of the Russian ban, the European Commission said one day after it was announced.
“In the current context, the most important is to react in a proportionate and rapid way should the situation arise,” EU’s Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos said in a statement.
The EU’s executive arm was also establishing a task force to analyse the potential impacts sector by sector, and to assess how it can provide support.
Air transit ban mulled
Russia has also said it is considering banning European and US airlines from flying through Russian airspace to the Asia-Pacific region.
Preventing the use of transit routes over Siberia would be very costly for European carriers as they would be forced to fly longer distances and burn more fuel.
But it would also hurt Russia’s Aeroflot which gets the hundreds of millions of euros of fees that foreign airlines pay for the overflight rights.