MOSCOW, September 23. /TASS/. Russia has asked the Belarusian agriculture ministry to clarify the situation with imports of exotic and off-season fruit and vegetables allegedly originating from the neighbouring republic, the country’s veterinary and phytosanitary service Rosselkhoznadzor said on Wednesday.
The veterinary service said it had recorded a sharp increase in exports of fruit and vegetables form Belarus to Russia in January-July 2015, fuelling suspicions of renewed attempts to re-export banned European products, side-stepping Moscow's embargo on imports from the West.
Compared with the same period last year, supplies of lettuce, citrus, melons, papayas, apples, pears, cherries and other fruit and vegetables have more than doubled, it said.
"Conspicuous is the fact of supplying fruit and vegetables ‘produced’ in the republic of Belarus when they are out of season," the service said, noting that current imports of strawberries, blackberries and raspberries marked as Belarusian appeared to originate from third countries as their morphological and seasonal features indicated.
The service said it had repeatedly requested information from the Belarusian agriculture ministry about the country’s producers of plant products alongside volumes of production, exports and domestic consumption. But as no response followed, Rosselkhoznadzor decided to send its request to the Belarusian agency once again.
Unfortunately, since December 2014, Belarus continues to ignore the Russian service’s numerous requests, Rosselkhoznadzor said.
Russia introduced a sweeping ban on many Western agricultural products, including meat, fish, dairy products, vegetables and fruit in August 2014, in retaliation for Western sanctions over events in Ukraine. Last month, the Kremlin extended the ban for a year following the EU’s decision to prolong its sanctions through January.
Since then, Russian food standards officers are pushing for tighter rules to block banned European products reaching Russia through neighbour-states.
Tighter controls are proposed to battle increasingly frequent attempts by Western suppliers to circumvent the ban on food imports, fraudulently re-exporting European fruit and vegetables through Russia's partners in the three-nation customs union with Belarus and Kazakhstan.