He was speaking on 22 November at a meeting of the political party All-Russia People’s Front.
Putin said he had received an appeal from Victor Gofman, director of an unnamed meat company from Kaliningrad Oblast. He claimed he had invested significantly in the development of his livestock business over the past few years and that these investments were possible due to market conditions following the introduction of the food embargo.
Gofman also cited his partner, Mr Richter, who moved from Germany and established a business to produce sausages in Russia. Richter, he said, had also asked the Russian President “at all costs to not abandon the food embargo”.
“Look, what a curious situation this is,” said Putin. “Mr Richter came from Germany and is asking us to keep our counter-measures in place for as long as possible. And why is this happening? It is clear that he has invested, probably, his own money into this business, and is interested in us [domestic meat manufacturers] maintaining a dominant position in the domestic market.”
“However, I understand you and, as a whisper in the ear, I can say that we will put off [lifting the embargo] for as long as possible,” Putin added.
Better market conditions needed
The Russian president said it was clear that Russian meat producers now wished the food embargo to remain for as long as possible. However, he also called on them to establish better market conditions to meet consumer demands.
“I will tell you a completely unexpected – perhaps even criminal in your opinion – situation, which is that the consumer is interested in getting good-quality products at the lowest price. So we need to create a [new] competitive environment,” Putin told meat producers, citing complaints from various public bodies in Russia, which claimed the quality of food, including meat products, in the country’s grocery stores worsened following the embargo, while prices rose.
“Regrettably, this [embargo] caused a temporary rise in prices for some food product categories,” admitted Putin.
He added that the food embargo had been initiated on purpose, as “Russia used the short-sighted actions of Western partners to protect domestic agricultural producers”.
Another five years of restrictions?
Putin’s statements aligned with the position taken by other top Russian officials, who are advocating an extension of the food embargo, given the positive effect they claim it is bringing to the country’s agricultural industry.
In particular, in September 2016, Russian agriculture minister Alexandr Tkachev suggested Russia should not extend the food embargo every year, in response to sanctions from Western countries against Russia, but should actually extend it once until 2021. He said this was the wish of Russian farmers.
However, he also suggested that, even if the embargo were lifted now, it would not be a disaster, since meat and milk manufacturers, in particular, were already providing an uninterrupted supply of their products to the market, hence occupying a niche previously accounted for by foreign suppliers.