ECONOMY

Russia may ease food import ban for some EU countries, including Greece

Russia may relax its ban on food from the European Union for Greece, Hungary and Cyprus, according to a report from Interfax citing Agriculture Minister Nikolai Fedorov.

“We are actively studying what civilized options exist out there to react positively” to requests by the countries to be allowed to sell into the Russian market, Interfax cited Fedorov as saying Wednesday. The three countries account for less than 5 percent of the value of the food the EU exported to Russia in 2013 that’s now banned, according to European Commission data.

Greek and Cypriot citrus, grapes and peaches, and Hungarian meat products had a “significant” share of those Russian markets prior to the ban, Dmitry Rylko, director of the Moscow- based Institute for Agricultural Market Studies, said by phone.

Russia slapped import bans on an array of foods from the U.S. and EU in August, striking back at sanctions imposed over its role in the conflict in Ukraine. EU exports of food products currently banned by Russia were worth 5.1 billion euros ($5.4 billion) in 2013, the Commission said in September.

The U.S. and the EU imposed sanctions after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea a year ago, and extended them in July after accusing the government in Moscow of sending troops and weapons to support separatist forces and stoking a conflict that has killed more than 6,000 people. Russia denies the allegation.

Greece, Hungary and Cyprus exported about 203 million euros of food products to Russia in 2013 that now fall under the ban, according to data released by the Commission in September. Greece’s share was about 114 million euros, with 77 million euros for Hungary and 12 million euros for Cyprus.

Greece was the fifth-largest EU supplier of fruit to Russia before the ban, with shipments accounting for 108 million euros, the Commission said.

The EU said last week that it won’t lift sanctions on Russia until the situation in Ukraine improves. A peace accord signed Feb. 12 in Minsk, Belarus, is taking hold, though the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has said the situation is “fluid and unpredictable.”

[Bloomberg]