At the end of the 17th century, Russian Emperor Peter the Great brought potatoes to Russia for the first time. The vegetables - a whole sack of them - arrived from Holland. This year, Russian officials are planning to stop the practice of potato imports to Russia. First and foremost, it goes about potato imports from the Netherlands. After all, it is the Netherlands that provides Russia with seed potatoes, the imports of which are expected to be banned.
Other countries of the European Union will not be able to supply seed potatoes to Russia either. Last week in Berlin, the head of the Russian federal agency for sanitary and agricultural control (Rosselkhoznadzor), Sergey Dankvert, said that Russia would be forced to ban the imports of seed potatoes from the European Union, if the latter failed to fulfill Russian requirements.
According to the official, the Russian Federation has been asking for documentation of the phyto-sanitary status of supplied products from European partners since May 2010. However, the EU has not provided any documents still. If the problem is not resolved, Russia will ban the imports of European seed potatoes from April 1, 2013. The Russian side stressed out that it was acting within the scope of WTO requirements.
"If the European party does not resolve all the issues related to the supply of the seeds, we will have to take measures against the products equivalent to those that the EU takes against Russia," said Dankvert.
In this connection, it is not quite clear whether the measures proposed by the Russian officials could become a method to obtain the necessary documentation or it is another reaction to give an equivalent response to some actions taken by the West.
Meanwhile, the news of a possible ban of potato imports from Europe caused quite a reaction in Russia. After all, every Russian citizen eats potatoes regardless of their social status and income. Consequently, everything that happens to potatoes is highly important for almost every Russian citizen.
Moreover, it transpired that after the ban on imports of seed potatoes will lead to the ban on the imports of food potatoes. The information about it appeared in the Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper, citing a source at Rosselkhoznadzor. Immediately experts and ordinary Russian citizens started saying that the ban on the imports of European products, will send domestic prices on potatoes up.
The basic non-European importers of potatoes to Russia are Egypt and Israel. In these countries, the year 2012 was not a good one in terms of potato harvest. If there are no potatoes coming from Europe, Russian prices potatoes may skyrocket. For the time being, Russia imports potatoes from Germany, Finland, Spain, France, Great Britain, Poland and other European countries. That is, almost from the whole of Europe. Losing all foreign sources of potatoes at once, Russia may be left with nothing.
However, some experts think otherwise. President of the Association of Agricultural Cooperatives of Russia, Vladimir Plotnikov, told Pravda.Ru: "In Russia, we believe that potatoes are our second bread. And we have enough production to fully meet all needs of the people in this important food. We have enough of our own domestic potatoes. Moreover, Russian farmers have difficulties in selling their potatoes during the harvest season (end of September - October), and prices drops considerably. In general, we have enough potatoes and, I think, prices will not go up."
It is worthy of note that during the recent years, Russia has introduced a number of restrictions on the imports of certain types of agricultural products from the West. In March 2012, Russia suspended the imports of live pigs, cattle, sheep and goats from the EU. Subsequently, the ban affected protein animal fodder. On December 8, Russia banned the imports of meat from the U.S., Canada and several other countries.
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