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MOSCOW, August 19. /ITAR-TASS/. Western suppliers are already trying to circumvent Russia’s ban on food import, by illicitly re-exporting European fruit and vegetables through Belarus. Moscow promises to carefully observe re-export via third countries, including its partners in the Customs Union - Belarus and Kazakhstan - but does not oppose supplies of processed Western foods from the grouping’s countries.
When prohibitive measures are introduced, there are always attempts to avoid them, the more so when it benefits many parties involved, say experts. This time this is Russia’s one-year ban on fish, meat, fruit and vegetables and dairy import from the EU, Norway, the US, Canada and Australia.
The Russian veterinary and phytosanitary watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor was reported to have detected re-export though Belarus of banned apples, peaches, plums and tomatoes without the country of origin stated or with tags of Turkey, Serbia, Macedonia and some African countries, including Zimbabwe, chief Sergei Dankvert said on Monday. The consignments did not have phytosanitary documentation. The inspection has shown the fruit and vegetables were supplied from Poland, Slovenia, the Netherlands, Lithuania and some other EU countries.
Amid sanctions, phytosanitary certification of transit European cargo was Belarus’ responsibility, said Dankvert. “If any quarantine pests are detected, we’ll limit supplies from Belarus,” he warned.
Rosselkhoznadzor also plans to monitor re-export of dairy products, meat and fish through Swizerland, Kazakhstan and the Faroe Islands. Some transit goods had been already supplied to Moscow through Kazakhstan, said Dankvert.
Belarus and Kazakhstan earlier promised to prevent banned exports to Russia. Meanwhile, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko suggested foreign exporters to the Russian market sold their goods in Belarus, one of the purposes being to process them.
Russia had agreed to accept processed products from Belarus, Dankvert said last week after a visit to Minsk.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich said on Monday the Customs Union would benefit from the Russian sanctions. “Surely, our partners in the Customs Union might benefit in this situation as they will process part of the products that used to be directly exported to Russia,” he said.
The wish to circumvent the embargo is quite natural, as this always happens when sanctions are imposed, professor of the Higher School of Economic applied macroeconomics department Igor Nikolaev told ITAR-TASS. Three parties can be interested - suppliers of the banned goods, a transit country that benefits from cargo transit, and Russia that buys the products. Naturally, Russian importers do not want to change logistics, as this change drives up prices.
“Attempts to avoid the embargo will continue,” the expert said. “They will paste false labels and try to transport goods through other countries; these are quite widespread measures.”
One should be under no illusion about the Customs Union members’ behavior, he added. “The Customs Union umbrella enables to easily circumvent bans. When great amounts of money are involved, partnership pales into insignificance, which is exemplified by the recent conflict with Belarus over petroleum products export,” he said.
As for the attempted illegal re-export with repasted tags, this could be the reason to start an administrative case, head of the customs department at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration Mikhail Stepanenko told ITAR-TASS, ruling out corruption on the Belarussian side as it was a rare occasion in the country.
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