Irish exporters shocked but impact of ban unclear
Published 08/08/2014 | 02:30
The Russian ban on food imports from the West has sent shockwaves through the €10bn Irish food export sector.
The move is in retaliation for EU and US sanctions imposed on key Russian businesses and leaders following Russia's involvement in the Ukraine.
All meat, fish, fruit and vegetable and many dairy imports from the EU, US, Australia, Canada and Norway have been banned for at least one year by the Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said the move was not unexpected.
Authorities here were unclear about the exact extent of the ban, with exemptions for key items such as infant milk formula and casein. Exports from Ireland of pork, offal, and some dairy and fish products valued at close to €100m a year into Russia ceased following plant inspections by Russian vets earlier this year.
Russia only accounted for 2.5pc of Ireland's food and drink exports, but with a population of 142 million, it was one of the fastest growing markets for Irish produce, with five-fold growth over the last five years. It was also Europe's second largest customer for food exports, and accounted for a third of butter and cheese exports from the region, of which Ireland is a major player. The EU also depended on Russia for 25pc of its pigmeat sales and 15pc of its beef sales.
Food industry leaders expressed fears about the impact of surplus product that was originally destined for the Russian market.
"From the EU alone, there's about 260,000 tonnes of cheese and about 30,000 tonnes of butter that is suddenly looking for a new home. That's before you take into account the surplus product from the US and Australia," said IBEC's dairy director, Cormac Healy.
"It comes at a time when Irish and EU dairy stocks will be very high during the peak production time of the year. Other products such as meat or fruit and vegetables may have very limited windows for sale. One way or another, we're going to end up with a lot of distressed sellers," he said.