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Russian Food Embargo Leaves Europeans with Excessive Supply
Sep 01, 2014

An Excessive Supply of French pears, warehouses full of German sausage, rotting Polish peppers and unwanted Scottish mackerel: Russia’s move to ban European food imports in retaliation for EU sanctions is having a telling effect across a continent already slouching towards another recession. Last year, EU farm exports to Russia were worth €11 billion. 

In recent days, the leaders of Hungary, Slovakia and Sweden have all spoken out about the damage done by tit-for-tat sanctions that are really starting to bite for businesses on both sides of the stand-off. Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and France are also suffering. 

Germany: The Germans export more food and agricultural produce to Russia than any other EU country—€1.6 billion-worth in 2013. Germany’s biggest export to Russia is pig meat: of the 7,50,000 tonnes of pork, worth over €1 billion, sold to Russia last year, about a quarter came from Germany.  Luckily Europe’s meat exporters have been able to open up new markets in other countries over the last few months, thus balancing out the amounts usually sold to Russia. Especially the Philippines, Japan and South Korea have increasingly received exports from Europe. The demand may increase as South American suppliers take their meat to Moscow instead. 

France: The French exported €1 billion of foodstuffs to Russia last year, and the embargo is hitting France’s 27,000 fruit and vegetable farmers hardest.—one per cent of its fresh fruit and three per cent of vegetables—50,000 tonnes a year in total—leave France directly for Russia. A further 50,000 tonnes more are exported to Russia via the Benelux and Baltic countries in a trade worth €48 million a year. 

Spain: For Spain fruit, meat and vegetables were included in the Russian sanctions, wine and olive oil were not. But some Spanish farmers are still feeling the pinch, particularly as 30,000 tonnes of tomatoes, peaches and mandarin oranges exported to Russian annually will now have to find another home on a continent facing a glut. 

Poland: The most notable response to the ban in Poland has been a social media campaign urging Poles to “stand up to Putin by eating apples.” But it is more perishable vegetables being harvested now such as peppers and cabbage that are greater cause for concern. The price of some vegetables has fallen by about 50 per cent. 

The U.K.: Mackerel is the most valuable stock to the Scottish fishing fleet, and about 20 per cent—£16 million worth is exported to Russia annually.


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