By Constantinos Psillides
CYPRUS WILL be looking into alternative markets for its citrus exports following the full ban of food imports to Russia from EU countries, the Agriculture Minister Nikos Kouyialis said on Monday, announcing a meeting with all affected parties on Tuesday.
The minister will be meeting with representatives from the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KEVE), the Cyprus Employers and Industrialists Federation (OEV) and farming unions.
In 2013 citrus exports to Russia reached €10.7 million. The total export volume that will be affected was around €13.5 million in 2013, including citrus, fish, vegetables, dairy, and fruit.
Russia announced the import ban on EU food products last week in response to the tightened EU sanctions implemented at the end of July against Russia for their involvement in the Ukraine crisis
But farmer’s union EKA general secretary Panikos Hambas told the CyBC that looking for an alternative market was not a solution.
“Producers will be forced to sell their goods extremely cheaply because the market knows they are desperate and have no other option. The EU hotshots that green-lighted sanctions against Russia now must dig into their pockets and find a way of compensating the farmers affected by this ban,” said Hambas, adding that the main export affected are mandoras, a cross between an orange and a mandarin that’s grown in Cyprus and exported primarily in Russia.
EKA is the farmers’ branch of parliamentary party AKEL.
Hambas also expressed concern over the citrus exports business in general, warning that a prolonged embargo will destroy the industry.
“Packaging factories will close down and jobs will be lost. We must keep in mind that factory workers are almost exclusively Cypriots,” he said.
The EKA general secretary also claimed that according to his sources, Turkish Cypriot farmers will be re-labelling their products as Turkish and shipping them off to Russia. Turkey as a non-EU member is not affected by the ban.
Kouyialis said he had been in contact with Greek Agriculture Minister George Karasmanis to discuss both the prolonged drought and the effects of the Russian ban.
Kouyialis said that Greece is one of the countries most affected by the ban, standing to lose up to 200 million euros in exports to Russia, crippling the economy of a country that is already in a financial turmoil.
The spokesman of the Russian Embassy to Cyprus Sergey Filimonov told the Cyprus News Agency (CNA) on Friday that the ban was “retaliatory”, following sanctions the EU imposed on Russia regarding the country’s involvement in the recent Ukraine crisis.
He added that excluding certain EU countries facing economic woes, like Cyprus, did not seem to be an option because “EU countries unanimously approved these sanctions against Russia, and therefore Russia’s response will apply to all countries.”
Hambas urged the government to intensify diplomatic talks with Russia and demanded that the EU open up its coffers and compensate all the farmers in EU countries that are affected by the embargo.