Russia has lifted sanctions on Turkish tomato exporters, state-run Anadolu Agency reported on April 27, citing Turkey’s Economy Ministry. Russia’s decision will completely pave the way for Turkey’s tomato export to Russia, the ministry said in a statement.
The move came after a meeting held between officials from the Turkish Economy Ministry and Russian Agricultural Ministry on April 26, the statement said.
It recalled that a limited number of Turkish tomato exporters were allowed by the Russian Agricultural Ministry to sell products to Russia. That nation had also imposed a 50,000-ton quota on imported tomatoes from Turkey in October 2017.
In January 2016, after Turkey downed a Russian fighter jet violating its airspace, Russia banned imports of Turkish fruits and vegetables including tomatoes, oranges, apples, apricots, cabbage, broccoli, mandarins, pears, peaches, cucumbers, plums, strawberries, onions, cloves, and poultry.
Turkey has exported 74,119 MTof mandarin to Russia in the first quarter of 2018 and generated a revenue of $42.3 million USD in return.
East Black Sea Region Exporters Association President Ahmet Hamdi Gurdogan: “In order to develop the trade relations between two countries, it is imperative to lift the restrictions and form strategic partnerships. This is the only way two countries can full fill its potential in trade relations.”
According to the released figures, the exports of mandarin increased 31 % in volume and 36% in value compared to the first quarter of 2017. Mandarin is followed by lemon with 50,375 MT, oranges with 32,325 MT and apples with 22,625 MT.
From the East Black Sea Region in the same period, 51,196 MT of fruits and vegetables are exported to Russia generating a revenue of $30.8 million. 21,401 MT of these exports were mandarins which accounted for $12.2 million in trade.
President Ahmet Hamdi Gurdogan: ”The numbers display a 91% increase in exports of fruits and vegetables to Russia compared to last year’s first quarter. The rise in revenue is actually even higher at 112%. Turkey exports fruits and vegetables to Russia mostly and it has become the primary for Turkish fruits and vegetables. It is a huge market and we are trying to improve our share in this market even more. That’s why we select our best products for exports and Russian consumers started to prefer specifically Turkish products.
Most of the restrictions imposed by Russia which were put in place in 2016 due to political crisis between two countries, have already been lifted. However there are still some remaining restrictions regarding tomato exports where only certain firms are granted permission to export tomatoes. This creates unfair competitive environment for our growers and we would like this restriction to be removed as well. This way more Turkish growers will be able to export their tomatoes to Russia and Russian consumers will be able to access the products at a better price.
Last week’s meeting between Russia and Turkey has yet to provide clarity about the tomato boycott, but the yes-no game isn’t over yet. In the run-up to the meeting, contradictory reports were heard. After last week’s meeting, only one thing became clear: nothing is clear yet, so borders will remain closed for now.
The choice of words of both parties after the negotiations illustrate the confusion. The Turkish Minister of Economic Affairs Nihat Zeybecki said in Turkish media that various agreements had been reached. For the remaining small problems he expects a solution before 20 October (when there’s a meeting in Kazan). “There are just one or two very small things regarding agrarian products. We agree on all major lines. I am certain all problems will be completely solved before 20 October.” Specifically about the tomato boycott the minister said: “In the near future we hope for a positive solution from the conversations with the Russians about lifting the sanctions.”
“Proposals for liberalisation of the tomato trade will be prepared separately within parameters between the Ministries of Agriculture,” according to the Russian Minister of Energy Alexander Novak in Russian media. When asked if the sanctions could be lifted by 20 October, he answered: “Yes, definitely. We have confidence that all will become clear before the meeting of the intergovernmental commission.”
A Russian analyst illustrates the different points of departure of the two countries for Turkish website Vestnik Kavkaza. “Our growers are unable to deliver tomatoes that can compete with the Turkish ones. It is obvious that Ankara is very interested in an end to the boycott, but our growers aren’t interested at all.” Earlier the Russian Ministry of Agriculture said he wants to protect the investments that have been made in the Russian cultivation of tomatoes.
Russia does not intend to open up its market for tomatoes to Turkish growers, despite losing up to $1.5 billion from a trade dispute with Ankara, Russian Agriculture Minister Alexander Tkachev said on Wednesday.
Turkey has effectively put purchases of wheat, maize (corn) and sunflower from Russia on hold by imposing high import tariffs last month.
Russian market players believe the move was in retaliation for Moscow’s decision not to restore a visa-free regime with Ankara and resume purchases of tomatoes after the two countries improved ties last year, having fallen out over the shooting down of a Russian fighter jet in 2015.
“We do not plan to open the tomato market, (we) will support, above all, the domestic producers,” Tkachev said in an interview with Rossiya 24 TV on Wednesday.
Russia has been actively supporting domestic production of vegetables and tomatoes since it banned most Western food imports in 2014 in retaliation for Western sanctions imposed on Moscow over its involvement in Ukraine’s internal conflict.
“This is essential to us. The development of vegetable production has been our prestige in the recent years,” Tkachev said, adding that Moscow would get rid of the sector deficit in up to five years.
Russia was one of the key markets for Turkish tomatoes and bought several hundred million dollars worth each year.
That compares with between $1.3 billion and $1.5 billion which Moscow, according to Tkachev’s estimate, is losing from the effective suspension of agricultural exports to Turkey.
Turkish tomatoes are suspected to be reaching Russia via Georgia, as reported by the Russian newspaper Izvestia, although the Russian Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance (Rosselkhoznadzor) has said that they cannot prove it.
“We have no confirmed cases of re-exports of Georgian tomatoes from Turkey. It is difficult to find such supplies. If all documents are in order, it is impossible, in the case of Georgia, to determine where the products were grown,” said the press secretary of the Rosselkhoznadzor, Yuliya Melano.
Indirect evidence suggests that Georgia has increased its purchases of Turkish tomatoes fourfold; at the same time, the volume of Georgian tomatoes shipped to Russia has also grown considerably.
The ban on the import of Turkish fruits and vegetables to Russia, in force since 1 January 2016, was party lifted for citrus fruits, but tomatoes are still subject to it. Turkey itself is unable to find alternative markets for its tomatoes, while consumers in Russia are experiencing shortages.
A batch of Turkish cucumbers and vegetables, which were labeled as Armenian, have been destroyed by Russian authorities. The batch hadn’t been documented by the state service for food safety and didn’t receive a phytosanitary certificate. The batch of illegally imported vegetables were discovered by food inspection authorities in Russia.
“We also clarified that it was discovered in a retail network rather on the border, meaning theoretically I do not rule out the possibility that something might have been sold under an Armenian label, taking into account that the Armenian production is prestigious in terms of quality”, she said.
No evidence has of yet been release confirming the claim that the vegetables were indeed from Armenia. The total volume of the vegetables illegally imported were 6,083 kg, composed of cucumbers and tomatoes. Since the importers didn’t have the proper food safety forms the Russian authorities were forced to destroy the batch.
Russians are demanding more greenhouse vegetables and therefore more and more greenhouses are constructed in the country. What’s remarkable is that the country’s import of greenhouse vegetables does not decreases due to this.
According to “APK-Inform: Vegetables and Fruits”, the volume of imports of greenhouse tomatoes and cucumbers into Russia grew by 8% and reached 1 million tons ($130 million in value) in 2012/13. At the same time, according to the Federal State Statistics Service, the total amount of greenhouse vegetable production in Russia was still only 600 thousand tons in 2012. This number is increasing fast, but is still clearly insufficient to meet domestic demand for these products.
Russia has become the largest non-EU client for Spanish tomatoes after doubling its purchases during the first semester of 2013, reaching 24.06 million kilos, according to data from the Department of Customs and Special Taxes of the Ministry of Economy, processed by FEPEX.
The second largest non-EU destination during this period was Belarus, which imported a total of 5.62 million kilos of fresh Spanish tomatoes.
As a whole, Spanish tomato exports during the first semester of 2013 have increased by 9.5% compared to the same period last year, totalling 640,960 tonnes, due to the EU’s growth, as well as that of the aforementioned countries.
Of the 640,960 tonnes of Spanish tomatoes exported, a total of 602,425 tonnes were shipped to the European Union (94%), with an increase of 7% compared to the same period last year. Within the EU, Germany is the main recipient with 132,888 tonnes; 11% more than in 2012. It is followed by France, with 95,471 tonnes (+5%) and the UK with 87,781 tonnes (+3%).
This growth in tomato exports, Spain’s most exported vegetable, is mainly due to the increase in demand from the EU and the continent, as according to FEPEX, the volumes exported to other markets of potential interest are very small, mainly as a result of barriers to imports in the shape phytosanitary protocols. The total volume of exports to markets outside the EU was 244 tonnes, just 0.04% of the total.
Russia import more and more fruit and vegetables all the time, while their own production
decreases. In 2012, the country became the most important sales destination for Spanish fruit and vegetables, according to a report from Business Boost International.
Fruit and vegetable imports by Russia in 2012 were compared to the previous year. The tomato and cucumber import decreased slightly, but the import of peppers was 38% higher and the import of potatoes even increased almost threefold. Also, imports of lettuce, aubergine peach and grapes increased. The apple import – in which area Russia worldwide is in third place – decreased by 18 percent.
It appears from the report that in the area of fruit imports, especially Ecuador (bananas), Poland (apples), Turkey (citrus, grapes and top fruit), China (apples, citrus and top fruit), Argentina (apples, pears and citrus), Chile (grapes) that these products are very important for the country. The total consumption of fruit in the country increases for a number of reasons, one of them being the developing retail sector.