Russian import blacklist decision on lactose-free 'doesn't change much': Valio

By Mark ASTLEY contact

- Last updated on GMT

Russian import blacklist decision on lactose-free 'doesn't change much': Valio

Related tags: Lactose-free milk, Milk

The exclusion of "specialized" lactose-free milk and dairy products from Russia's Western food import blacklist "doesn't change much," says Finnish dairy, Valio. 

On June 24, Russia extended its ban​ on the import of Western food imports - introduced by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in August 2014.

It also amended its blacklist​ – removing rainbow trout, young oysters, mussels and “specialized lactose-free milk and specialized lactose-free dairy products for dietary therapeutic and preventive nutrition.”

According to Russia's National Union of Milk Producers (Souzmoloko), the amendment only applies to “those products which are essential for those suffering from lactase deficiency and are registered as a dietary therapeutic and preventive products.”

Exactly what this means for Valio, however, is unclear, Mika Koskinen, CEO, Valio Russia, told DairyReporter.com. 

“To my knowledge, it means we have to acquire some new certification to prove our lactose-free products are for some special use, for people who have special nutritional dietary needs,”​ he said.

"The process will continue"

Russia slapped a one-year ban on the import of agricultural food products, including milk and dairy products, from the European Union (EU), United States, Australia, Canada and Norway on August 6 2014.

Lactose-free milk and dairy products were removed from the Russian blacklist on August 21 2014 - a decision Valio branded "extremely significant."

But within a week, shipments of Valio lactose-free milk, yogurt, cottage cheese and sour cream were stopped at the Russian border.

While Moscow did not officially revoke its decision on lactose-free milk and dairy products, Valio's Eila lactose-free milk has only been "imported occasionally and in small quantities."

Eila lactose-free milk has, however, been stocked in stores in St Petersburg and Moscow in recent months, Valio Russia said in May.

"We haven't been able to export lactose-free products on a regular basis - only tiny amounts at this time,"​ said Koskinen. 

"According to them, we could, but in practice it hasn't been possible due to a slow import process involving many authorities on different levels."

"So it [Russia's latest announcement on lactose-free milk and dairy products] doesn't change much,"​ he said. 

"There will probably be an extra delay in exports for a while because Valio has to apply for some new certifications but after that we anticipate the process will continue as it has been."

"Hardest hit"

Valio claims it was "by far the hardest hit of all companies in Finland"​ by the Russian ban.

Its sales in Russia in 2014 came in at €258m - down from €378m in 2013.

Recovery is, however, underway, it said last week. 

“Valio has managed this year to replace the Russian market,"​ it said. "In January to March 2015 Valio’s exports to countries other than Russia amounted to €25m higher than the same period a year earlier."

In 2013, Russia accounted for 49% of Valio exports. Now, in the "current situation"​, Sweden, China, Central Europe and the USA are its largest export markets.

Related topics: Policy, Dairy

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