There has been mixed reaction to news of Russia’s import ban yesterday (7 August), with some associations shrugging it off, and others calling for action to be taken.
The ban, on "imports of products from the countries that have imposed economic sanctions against Russian citizens and companies", comprises agricultural produce, raw materials and food products from the US, the EU, Canada, Australia and Norway. It includes beef, pork, poultry and fish as well as fruits, vegetables and dairy products, with the ban to last for a period of one year.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said that the country has been unresponsive to the so-called sanctions declared against it by other countries, for a long time. "Until the last moment, we hoped that our foreign colleagues would realise that sanctions lead to a blind alley, and that no one benefits from them," he said.
He added that on business visits around the country the government has repeatedly heard complaints that Russian retail chains and shops "do not allow the sale of Russian foodstuffs". "The retaliatory measures that we are introducing will essentially open up shop shelves for domestic producers," he said.
US association, the National Chicken Council said Russia was the second-leading market for US chicken, in terms of volume. In 2013 the US exported around 267,000 metric tons of chicken to Russia, worth around $303m. However it said that in recent years Russia has been less important to the US as an export market as its own domestic poultry industry has expanded. It currently accounts for around 7% of total US poultry export volume.
"As a result, we do not expect that a Russian ban on US poultry imports will have a great impact on our industry. The biggest impact, we believe, will be on Russian citizens who will be burdened by higher prices for all food products, especially meat and poultry. The price of poultry in Russia is already rising and has recently been increasing at a rate of 2 percent to 3 percent per week," said the NCC.
Quality Meat Scotland also said it wasn’t concerned about the measures taken, as Scottish red meat producers do not currently export to Russia. However Jim McLaren, chairman of Quality Meat Scotland, added: "It remains to be seen what effect, if any, the restrictions that Russia has imposed on other countries will have on the European market."
The Canadian Pork Council said the move was an unwelcome market disruption, but that it was not the first time there had been disruptions in Canada's access to the Russian market. It added that "Canadian pork producers understand this is not simply a trade dispute".
Around CAD$213m was exported to Russia between January to May this year, however this is just shy of the CAD$260m exported in the whole of 2013, due to trade disruption which lasted for approximately six months.
EU agricultural association Copa-Cogeca said it "seriously regretted" the measures imposed by Russia, and urged the European Commission to take action.
Pekka Pesonen, secretary-general, said: "I am saddened that the EU farm sector has been targeted once more in this dispute with Russia. The restrictions could have a serious impact on the EU agriculture sector.
"It could also result in food shortages on the Russian market, and will prevent Russian consumers from enjoying quality produce. Already, the Commission has imposed an illegal ban on EU pork products which is being investigated by the WTO".
The British government said Russia had no grounds to impose sanctions, and that it would be working closely with trade associations and industry to help monitor the impact of the ban.
The spokesperson added: "We are still considering the impacts of the ban but we do not expect it to have a significant overall effect on our agricultural industry – the affected agricultural exports to Russia account for some 0.2% of our food, feed and drink total agricultural exports."
The Australian government said it was disappointed by the Russian government’s decision to ban certain imports. In a joint statement by the Minister for Trade and Investment, the Hon Andrew Robb AO MP, and the Minister for Agriculture, the Hon Barnaby Joyce MP, it said the Australian government was currently working to assess the full impact of the mesures brought about by Russia.
"Our priority is to ensure the ongoing success of Australian agricultural producers and exporters. The government is already working to ensure Australian producers have access to a wide range of alternative markets," read the statement.
"To put Russia’s ban in perspective, Australia’s total trade with Russia represents just 0.4 per cent of our trade overall and one per cent if you only look at agricultural exports. Australian agricultural exports to Russia in 2013 were valued at about A$405 million but included some commodities now already banned including beef (A$159 million); milk and dairy products (A$76 million); live animals, excluding seafood, (A$55 million); and fruit and nuts (A$9 million)," it added.
Norway's foreign minister, Børge Brende, said the ban was "completely unreasonable". "We are taking the news of the Russian trade restrictions seriously, but it is too early to say what the consequences will be for Norwegian companies. We are now examining the measures together with the EU and other affected parties, and we will jointly consider how we can best deal with the situation," he said in a statement today.