Report: Russia considers softening food import ban

Interview

Russian Agriculture Minister Nikolai Fyodorov said his ministry was considering softening its ban on food imports from a number of European Union countries, firstly from Greece, Hungary and Cyprus, and that the move was close to implementation, Interfax news agency reported yesterday.

The embargo was introduced last August in response to Western sanctions imposed on Moscow for its role in the Ukraine crisis.

Moscow is "in intense discussions on different possibilities to answer the question of whether we can find a positive answer to liberalizing shipments of products to our market. There are options, which we are discussing, there are two or three options, which are close to possible implementation," the minister said, adding that Russia wants to find a solution which would not alienate the EU.

"We are actively investigating to see what civilized opportunities there are to their proposals," Fyodorov told journalists in Moscow. "If we help them, we would not want to create problems for them in their relations with Brussels," Interfax quoted the minister as saying.

Russia's intention to soften the food embargo was first aired by Minister of Economic Development Alexey Ulyukayev two weeks ago.

Russia will explore ways of softening the food embargo for Hungary and Greece as is consistent with WTO norms, Russian news agencies TASS and RIA Novosty quoted Ulyukayev as saying on March 3.

Ulyukayev emphasized that the Russian government was looking into the matter after these countries asked it to revoke the ban.

"We need to come to a decision consistent with WTO norms. It is impossible to simply make exceptions for particular countries," the Russian minister said, but added that "I cannot rule out if we can even partly resort to unilateral measures if our partners properly perceive them."

A host of solutions are being explored that would make it possible for goods from these nations to enter the Russian market through processing or tolling mechanisms, Ulyukayev said.

The Hungarian economy has suffered losses of nearly €300,000 a day as a result of the Russian food embargo, Hungary's minister for foreign affairs and trade said in an interview with Slovak business daily Hospodarske Noviny published in October of last year.

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