Russia to Maintain Import Ban on European Union Vegetables

Russia will maintain a ban on imports of European Union vegetables because EU authorities failed to inform counterparts in the country on the source of an E. Coli outbreak, Agriculture Minister Yelena Skrynnik said.

Domestic demand will be met by national production, Skrynnik said at a meeting today. She also said Russia will import produce from the former Soviet republics of Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan as well as Turkey, Iran, Egypt and China.

Russia suspended imports of German and Spanish tomatoes, lettuce and cucumbers on May 30 after an E. Coli outbreak in Germany last month. The ban was extended to all fresh vegetables from the EU on June 2. At least 2,429 people across Europe have been infected in the outbreak and 23 have died.

The ministry aims to get approval from all relevant government departments in the next two to three weeks for federal plans to develop greenhouse farms and improve land, with the aim of raising vegetable output, Skrynnik said. The ministry wants to lift the national vegetable crop by 5 million metric tons to 17 million tons by 2020, according to a statement.

Tomatoes, Cucumbers

The EU accounted for 620,000 tons of vegetable imports into Russia in 2010, or about 24 percent of all inbound shipments, Skrynnik said today. Russia got 11 percent of its tomato imports and 5 percent of its imported cucumbers from the EU last year, the ministry said on June 3. Vegetable imports totaled 2.6 million tons in 2010, Skrynnik said.

While banning EU vegetables may increase inflation in Russia, the extent has yet to be estimated, Deputy Minister of Economic Development Andrey Klepach said today, according to the Interfax news agency.

Russian vegetable prices are unlikely to rise because supply has increased with the start of local harvesting of seasonal produce, Skrynnik said. The national vegetable crop is set to climb to 13 million tons this year from 12.1 million tons in 2010, she said.

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