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Western farmers take hit from Russia food ban
Sanctions » While U.S., Canada and the E.U. will take a $17.5 billion hit from ban, Russian consumers may feel it more than Western farmers.
First Published Aug 07 2014 06:15 pm • Last Updated Aug 07 2014 06:39 pm

Washington • Russian diners won’t be able to find creamy Dutch cheeses or juicy Polish apples in the grocery store or cook up chicken from the United States — the result of a Russian ban on most food imports from the West.

Although the U.S., Canada and the European Union together will take more than a $17.5 billion hit from the one-year ban, Russian consumers may feel it more than Western farmers.

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Jason Furman, the chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, shrugged off the import ban’s impact as negligible, in contrast to Western sanctions on Russian individuals, businesses and economic sectors that he said have sent investors fleeing Russia and made a weak Russian economy even weaker.

There’s a "cruel irony" in Russia’s import ban, said David Cohen, the Treasury Department undersecretary in charge of economic sanctions. "What the Russians have done here is limit the Russian people’s access to food," Cohen told reporters. "We don’t do that. Our law doesn’t allow us to do that."

What to know about the Russian ban, which is in retaliation for sanctions the U.S. and European nations have imposed because of its actions in Ukraine:

What’s at stake? • The United States exported about $1.2 billion in food and agricultural goods to Russia last year, less than one percent of total U.S. agriculture exports. The EU exported about 11.8 billion euros ($15.8 billion) to Russia, about 10 percent of its total agriculture exports. Canada’s agricultural exports to Russia amounted to $563 million Canadian dollars ($515 million) in 2012, according to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

Who is hit the hardest? • In the EU, Poland, France, the Netherlands and Germany will feel much of the loss.

The Netherlands send 1.5 billion euros ($2 billion) worth of agricultural products to Russia annually, Germany 1.6 billion euros ($2.1 billion), France 1.2 billion euros ($1.6 billion) and Poland 1.6 billion euros ($2.1 billion). Poland is Europe’s largest producer of apples; more than half of its production goes to Russia.


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Russia’s ban on Polish apples, already announced last week, led to a popular campaign in Poland, with media and officials urging citizens to eat more apples and drink more ciders. A widely used slogan was "An apple a day keeps Putin away!"

President Xavier Beulin of a French farm union said the Russian import ban could affect the country’s fruit and vegetable industry.

"Russia is a significant market for us and one that grows by about 10 percent each year. It’s not trivial," he told European television network LCI.

The chairman of the Dutch Federation of Agriculture and Horticulture, Albert Jan Maat, warned the Russian ban will cause prices to drop across Europe because of oversupply and called on the Dutch government and the EU to help farmers.

The ban also dealt a blow to Norway’s fishing industry. The Norwegian Seafood Federation said Russia was its biggest single market last year.

The impact is less in the United States. The largest U.S. export to Russia is poultry, mainly chicken, followed by tree nuts such as almonds, and also soybeans. In a statement, the National Chicken Council and the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council said Russia buys a little more than $300 million in U.S. chicken annually, about 7 percent of the industry’s total exports. The chicken groups said they did not expect the ban to have a major impact on the industry.

A gradual decline • Both the EU and the United States have already seen hits to Russian exports in recent years as Russia has scrutinized and limited meat imports. In 2012, Russia bought almost $300 million in U.S. beef and $268 million in U.S. pork. Those numbers dropped to $1 million and $17 million, respectively, a year later after Russia imposed limits on those products because of a feed additive used in the United States called ractopamine.

Other countries have had similar issues with Russia — the amount of pork meat exported from Germany to Russia from January to May 2013 was 83,000 tons, but fell to 9,000 tons a year later amid sanitary import restrictions, according to Germany’s farmer lobby group DBV.

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