Russia's countersanctions against new countries won't significantly affect domestic food market - agriculture minister

Russia's decision to expand its food embargo on Albania, Montenegro, Iceland, and Liechtenstein will not significantly affect the Russian food market, Russian Agriculture Minister Alexander Tkachyov says.

"I am sure that the expansion of the list of countries won't have a significant effect on the balance on the domestic market. The outgoing import volumes would be compensated for due to growth in domestic production and supplies from other countries," Tkachyov said in an interview published on the Rossiiskaya Gazeta website.

In fulfilling a government directive on expanding the list of countries subject to Russia's food embargo, the Agriculture Ministry analyzed import flows, he said.

"It turned out that the share of supplies of the listed products from Albania, Montenegro, Iceland, and Liechtenstein is insignificant, that is, about 5% for all these countries taken together," Tkachyov said.

Talking about Ukraine, the minister pointed out that the ban on imports of some agricultural products from this country can take effect only if the Ukrainian authorities start applying the economic section of the association agreement with the EU.

If this ban does take effect, Russia won't be left without lard, Tkachyov said.

"As a matter of fact, Ukraine does not supply lard to Russia, but it exports freshly-frozen pork. And this country's share in the aggregate amount of pork shipments to our market is only about 4%. These volumes can be easily compensated for by domestic producers or other countries, for instance, Brazil, China, and Chile," Tkachyov said.

Talking about Iceland, the minister said this country's share in fish imports to Russia has not been more than 15% in 2015.

"You can't say this is a small amount, but it cannot be called significant, either. There is another interesting aspect here. Fish in Atlantic waters near Iceland and Norway is harvested by Russian fishermen. And the flows that earlier reached us through Iceland can now be redirected, for instance, through the Faroe Islands," he said.

In addition, Tkachyov pointed out that herring and mackerel are harvested in the Pacific in Russia's Far East, and herring harvested in the Sea of Okhotsk and the Bering Sea is just as good as that harvested in the Atlantic.

"As for the Atlantic salmon, which was also shipped to Russia through Iceland, now Chile can make up for some amounts. And again, the Pacific salmon is harvested in our Far East," Tkachyov said.

The minister said he did not think reorientation toward other agricultural producers can significantly affect the prices on Russia's domestic market.

"For instance, the wholesale price for pork, if we talk about this, is currently at the level of last August, which confirms that there is balance between the supply and the demand," Tkachyov said.

He pointed out that Russia managed to resolve the problem of replacing food imports from the EU and the U.S. in 2014.

"In the fall of 2014, we managed literally within several months to readjust imports from these countries to others and ensure uninterrupted supplies from Latin American and Asian countries. In addition, we shouldn't forget that this is always a chance for domestic agricultural producers to step up production volumes and occupy vacant niches," Tkachyov said.

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