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Here's how Russia's ban on most EU food imports affects Ireland...

The ban comes after Western countries imposed sanctions against Moscow over its policy on Ukraine.

Updated 11.05pm

Reining in Russia Vladimir Putin Source: AP/Press Association Images

RUSSIA IS TO introduce a “full embargo” on most food imports from EU, US, and other Western countries that have imposed sanctions against Moscow over its policy on Ukraine, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said today.

He told a government meeting:

Russia is introducing a full embargo on imports of beef, pork, fruit and vegetable produce, poultry, fish, cheese, milk and dairy products from the European Union, United States, Australia, Canada and Norway.

The ban goes into effect immediately and will last one year unless “our partners demonstrate a constructive approach” with regards to sanctioning Russia, he said.

Of course this is a serious decision for the suppliers of such foods from these countries.

He said that the ban will not cover baby food, and people will still be able to buy the banned products abroad if they want.

But he warned those who try to profit from reselling them will be “harshly punished.”

The full list of banned products was published on the government’s website as Medvedev delivered his speech.

“There is nothing good in sanctions… and the response did not come easily to us, but we had to take it,” he said, promising to “prevent price increases” and use the embargo to “clear the store shelves for our producers”.

Exports from Ireland

Initial indications are that casein, infant formula and tea extract are not banned. Casein alone accounted for €11.3m of Ireland’s €17.8m dairy exports to Russia in 2013.

Food and drink exports from Ireland to Russia were worth over €230m last year.

Bord Bia said that the exports were dominated by prepared foods, meat, dairy, seafood and drinks.

Prepared food accounted for €112m, while pigmeat exports amounted to €59m.

Flights block?

In addition to the food bans, Medvedev also warned that Russia could block overflights between Europe and Asia in retaliation for the Western sanctions, reports AFP.

The ban could hurt European airlines such as Lufthansa, British Airways, Air France and Finnair that operate many long-haul routes to Asia.

Irish opinion

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said that the move was “obviously unwelcome” but not totally unanticipated.

He said that his department is currently working to clarify the specific details of the ban.

The impact on Ireland will depend both on the products covered by the ban and any knock-on effects on international market prices as banned product seeks replacement markets.

He said that while Ireland’s agri-food export trade with Russia represents less than 2.5% of total agri-food export, this “very much belies the importance of this market in terms of its future potential”.

Speaking to Newstalk, Minister Coveney said that there has been a tightening up of EU exports this year to Russia in the agri-food area anyway.

All EU pigmeat is already banned in Russia due to an outbreak of African swine flu in the Baltic states.

Coveney expressed disappointment at this, pointing out that the Russian market for pigmeat was worth €60m to Ireland last year.

He told RTÉ that he feared that exports of cheese could be affected, and that Ireland exported about €4.5m worth of cheese to Russia last year.

We’ve had a whole series of inspections in Irish plants in recent months that have resulted in Irish dairy powders not going to Russia at the moment and we’re negotiating with them on the technicalities of why that restriction is in place.

But he said that the news of sanctions was not a surprise:

“There has been a tendency to restrict the importation of food and drink from the European Union in Russia this year. We know that the President [Putin] wants more agricultural production to take place in Russia so they reduce their dependence on the European Union for production of food.”

He said you “have to expect a backlash” to the Western trade restrictions and sanctions, “and that’s what we’re getting now”.

For his part, Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) President Eddie Downey said today’s development highlights the “uncertainty and volatility on Irish farms” as our agricultural sector undergoes “increased exposure to world markets.”

Bord Bia has established a dedicated support unit to assist companies with regard to the trading situation with Russia, which can be contacted on 01 6142 292.

- First published 10.44am

Read: Ukraine negotiates return of soldiers ‘forced to retreat’ into Russia>

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