Russia’s ban on imports from the EU and other Western countries is likely to have a direct impact on EU prices and a knock-on effect on UK agriculture says the National Farmers Union.
Although Russia has been blocking imports of pork from the EU since the end of January on health grounds, albeit disputed ones, the country’s new ban could “exacerbate” farm income problems for UK producers.
That is certainly the stance taken by NFU deputy director general Martin Haworth, despite the UK’s limited direct trade with Russia.
“The UK exports very little to Russia,” he said. “In 2013, for example, UK total food and drink exports, including alcohol, equated to just £115 million including £17 million of frozen fish, £5.7 million of cheese and £5.3 million of coffee.
“However, other EU countries export a lot and there is every likelihood that a ban could have an impact on EU prices, which will then have a knock-on effect in the UK.
“This timing from President Putin is also worrying as it comes when most farm prices in the UK have already seen significant falls over the past year and any further downward pressure can only exacerbate problems.”
When Russia banned imports of EU fruit and vegetables during the German E.coli outbreak in 2011, Mr Howarth added, the fall-out was felt throughout the supply chain with UK retailers being tempted by low-cost EU imports which led to pressure on domestic growers to match unsustainable low prices.
“We have long said that we must have long-term commitments from retailers, ones which can take into account agricultural volatility, or in this case political volatility,” he said, “so we are not in a position which sparks sudden and opportunistic short-term moves which threaten our ability to produce food in this country.”