If approved, the new restrictions could affect imports of nearly 600,000 tonnes of various products a year, worth a total of US$1.2 billion.
There was a need to impose tighter restrictions on imports, because some exporters to the market had already learned ways to supply prohibited products under the customs codes of products that were still allowed, Ruslan Davydov, acting director of the FCS, wrote in a letter to the Russia’s Ministry of Agriculture.
According to Davydov, it would be feasible to ban imports of canned meat and all meat products that had not yet been subject to restrictions. Davydov also asked the Government to prohibit completely imports of live animals, including cattle, poultry, sheep and goats. Finally, he proposed that both chilled and frozen lamb and goat meat be banned.
These supplies should be banned from all countries subject to economic restrictions under the 2014 food embargo, Davydov said.
Western sanctions imposed against Russia during the last five years have incurred losses to the national economy of $6.3bn, according to Russia’s Ministry for Economic Development in a statement earlier this year. Meanwhile, the 2014 food embargo has negatively affected the domestic market, as Russian customers suffered losses of RUB280bn ($4.2bn) as a result, according to research conducted by the Russian Higher School of Economics.
New ways of smuggling
The FCS said it believed there was large-scale smuggling taking place, primarily from the European Union to Russia. During a press conference in Moscow on 16 February, an FCS spokesman said it was common practice for banned products to be imported into Russia, under the guise of “legal products”, and there were several ways in which smuggling could take place.
For example, Spanish exporters were regularly trying to export Iberian ham to Russia, marking it with the customs codes of products allowed to be imported into the country, the spokesman claimed. In many cases, the banned products were technically re-exported from a country that was not subject to the 2014 food embargo and it was not easy to identify the country of origin, he added.
Speaking earlier this year, Russian President Vladimir Putin promised that the Government’s agencies would keep searching and destroying all products illegally imported from Western countries. Putin added that although destroying food “was not pretty”, it was necessary to support domestic producers, so ultimately it was justified.
Russian retailers expected the new restrictions could cause a price hike on the Russian meat market, especially on certain product categories. Restrictions on the imports of live animals could also pose risks to Russia’s poultry industry, where up to 40% of breeding stock was the imported Cobb breed, according to Russian consultancy Agro&Food Communications.