`Olive Oil Skirts Russia’s Controversial Ban on Food Imports

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Olive Oil Skirts Russia’s Controversial Ban on Food Imports

Aug. 11, 2014
Charlie Higgins

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In spite of a year-long ban on many for­eign food imports announced recently by the Russ­ian Gov­ern­ment, Rus­sians will still be able to enjoy olive oils from pop­u­lar ori­gins like Greece, Spain and Italy, sources say.

The ban, which was ordered by Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin in response to sanc­tions related to the con­flict in Ukraine, cov­ers 52 cat­e­gories of imported prod­ucts from the U.S., Europe, Nor­way, Canada and Aus­tralia, includ­ing meat, fish, milk, dairy prod­ucts, and many processed foods. Olive oil, how­ever, was spared from the black­list, along with wine and cof­fee among oth­ers.

Speak­ing in value terms, over 40 per­cent of Russia’s food is cur­rently imported, accord­ing to The Finan­cial Times. The coun­try is con­sid­ered highly depen­dent on goods from abroad, import­ing $30 bil­lion worth of food per year from coun­tries out­side the Soviet Union. A com­bined rev­enue of between US$8.6 and 9.5 bil­lion is expect to be lost as a direct result of the ban.

The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion has responded, say­ing, This announce­ment is clearly polit­i­cally moti­vated. The Com­mis­sion will assess the mea­sures in ques­tion as soon as we have more infor­ma­tion as to their full con­tent and extent.”

The Commission’s neg­a­tive views regard­ing the ban were shared by the major­ity of Euro­pean lead­ers, though the deci­sion will cer­tainly not affect all EU coun­tries equally. Nor­way and Poland, for instance, are expected to be hit the hard­est by the ban, given that these coun­tries each exported over $1 bil­lion in now-banned pro­duce to Rus­sia last year.

Fer­nando Miranda, Spain’s gen­eral direc­tor of Pro­duc­tions and Agri­cul­tural Mar­kets, esti­mated that the losses for Europe’s top olive oil sup­plier would be lim­ited” given that Spain’s main mar­ket is the Euro­pean Union where it exports 76 per­cent of its agri­cul­ture prod­ucts, with Rus­sia rep­re­sent­ing less than 2 per­cent. Nonethe­less Spain still falls within the top ten coun­tries expect to lose the most from the ban. Italy, mean­while, stands to lose US$285 mil­lion and Greece could see US$233 mil­lion in losses.

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