Russia may introduce stricter food embargo rules

Western food suppliers are resorting to large-scale smuggling in order to bypass Russia's ban on food imports, considers the Federal Customs Service (FCS) of Russia. It urges to impose stricter limitations, especially on meat imports. However, new restrictions will probably cause a price surge, so Russian customers are likely to suffer losses again.

Russia's FCS has proposed extending the 2014 food embargo to prohibit imports of all kinds of meat from a number of countries, reports GlobalMeatNews. The FCS's first deputy head Ruslan Davydov explained that tighter restrictions on imports were necessary, as some exporters had found ways to supply prohibited products under alternative customs codes.

Davydov proposed forbidding imports of canned meat and all meat products that haven't yet been subject to the acting embargo. Besides, he urged to ban imports of live animals as well as chilled and frozen lamb and goat meat. The measures are meant to be applied to all countries that are already subject to the 2014 food embargo, including the US, the EU, Canada and Australia. If the government approves the proposals, around 600,000 tonnes of products worth $1,2 billion a year can be banned from importing.

The FCS considers that many banned products are imported to Russia under the guise of legal products, primarily from the European Union. The service revealed several ways of smuggling, such as marking Iberian ham from Spain with customs codes of other products, which were allowed to be imported. Banned products are often re-exported from the countries that are not subject to the embargo, so it is difficult to identify the country of origin.

The new restrictions are likely to cause a price surge in the Russian market. Photo:

According to local retailers, the new restrictions are likely to cause a price surge in the Russian market. The Higher School of Economics estimated that Russian customers suffered losses of 280 billion rubles ($4,2 billion) due to the 2014 food embargo. In addition, the country's poultry industry, which is currently importing up to 40% of breeding stock, will be at risk if the imports of live animals are banned, says Agro&Food Communications consultancy.

Earlier this year, President Putin announced that state agencies would keep searching and destroying food products illegally imported from the West. Although destroying food ''was not pretty'', it was ultimately justified, as it was necessary to support domestic producers, said the president.

By Anna Litvina