Ukraine remains the top buyer of Russian beer and is now the leading buyer of Russian meat, pushing Kazakhstan to second place, reported (in Russia) Vedomosti, citing the Federal Customs Service (FCS).
In 2016, Ukraine took almost one-third of all Russian beer and meat exports, said the FCS. These Russian items are supplied to the self-proclaimed Lugansk and Donetsk People's Republics (LNR and DNR), writes Vedomosti, citing dozens of sources in Russian manufacturing and trade companies.
Officially, Ukraine does not purchase Russian meat and beer because Kiev banned imports of most Russian food products at the end of 2015 as a response to the Russian food embargo. According to the Ukrainian State Statistics Service, in the period of January to November 2016, imports of Russian meat to Ukraine decreased by more than 40-fold to $15,400 (the service did not publish the real data - RBTH).
Experts interviewed by RBTH believe that the theory of Russian food supplies to the DNR and LNR is the most plausible.
"There is no growth of Russian food supplies to other parts of Ukraine; on the contrary, they have fallen to a miserable level," said Ivan Rubanov, director of the analytical group of the Russian Governmental Agricultural Committee. Meat, beer, milk, as well as most other agricultural products cost less in Ukraine than in Russia.
"Most likely, these are humanitarian food supplies to DNR and LNR," said Musheg Mamikonyan, president of the Meat Council of the Eurasian Economic Space, which is the international trade union established by Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia. Mamikonyan added that this is a temporary situation and that as soon as the blockade of the DNR and LNR ends, the fighting stops and there will be the chance to travel freely to these territories from Ukraine, then the situation with food imports will change.
Rubanov believes that most supplies go to the DNR and LNR for domestic consumption, because the Ukrainian blockade of those regions is trying to starve the urban populations.
"The two republics have large urban centers, including Donetsk, which has over one million residents, and just a small part of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions are farmlands," said Rubanov.
The situation requires the separation of foreign trade relations between the self-proclaimed republics and the rest of Ukraine, said Rubanov, who added that, "all Russian retaliatory sanctions against Ukraine also concern trade with DNR and LNR, which is absurd, considering their position and policy towards Russia."
Ukraine's other regions do not have trouble with food production for satisfying their domestic demand.
"In 2016, Ukraine had rather high cereal harvests thanks to favorable weather conditions, and it has rather large production potential for meat and poultry," said Anatoly Tikhonov, director of the RANEPA Center for International Agricultural Business and Production Security.