Russia bans Western food imports

August 08, 2014 - 12:00:00 am
A worker arranges cheese for sale at a grocery store in Moscow yesterday.

MOSCOW/KIEV: Moscow imposed a total ban on imports of many Western foods yesterday in retaliation against sanctions over Ukraine, a stronger than expected measure that isolates Russian consumers from world trade to a degree unseen since Soviet days.

In eastern Ukraine, a Dutch recovery team called off its work at the site where Malaysian airliner MH 17 was shot down over rebel held territory last month, saying the frontline location had become too dangerous. Ukraine said the halt to the recovery meant it would stop observing a ceasefire at the site, where it is battling rebels that the West says are armed and funded by Moscow.

Russian share prices fell after the announcement of Moscow’s one-year ban on all meat, fish, dairy, fruit and vegetables from the United States, the 28 European Union countries, Canada, Australia and non-EU member Norway.

Russia bought $43 billion worth of food last year. It has become by far the biggest consumer of EU fruit and vegetables, the second biggest buyer of US poultry and a major global consumer of fish, meat and dairy.

President Vladimir Putin ordered his government to adopt the measures to retaliate against Western countries who imposed sanctions on Russia’s defence, oil and financial sectors over its support for rebels waging an insurrection in east Ukraine.

He had promised to ensure that the measures would not hurt Russian consumers, which suggested he might exclude some popular products. But in the end, the bans announced by his prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, mentioned no exceptions.

Farmers in specific sectors in Western producing countries are likely to suffer, but much of the pain will be borne by Russians, who will face higher prices and shortages of some goods, with inflation already rising, the rouble falling and the economy hurt by capital flight.