By Constantinos Psillides
A UK based fruit and vegetable exporter, Knightsbridge Foods Ltd, may be looking into ways of sidestepping the Russian food embargo by supplying their Russian clients with Turkish Cypriot products, according to a Reuters report.
The company’s owner, who according to Reuters didn’t want to be identified by name before visiting the island, said that he would be coming to Cyprus this week
The Lincolnshire-based company might supply their Russian clients with potatoes bought from Turkish Cypriot farmers who can ship their goods via Turkey and thus bypass the Russian embargo.
“You need quick thinking,” the Knightsbridge’s owner told Reuters.”You need very strong contacts. Things change every single week.”
Direct trade between the EU and breakaway state is forbidden under EU directives but under the 2004 Green Line Regulation, some certified Turkish Cypriot produce is exported through the legal ports of the Republic. The remainder of Turkish Cypriot exports are sent out through Turkey.
The Cyprus Mail contacted the British company for a comment but has not yet received a response.
Asked to comment on the story, Press Officer for the European Commission Representation in Cyprus, Charalambos Metaxas, said that they would be looking into it.
Commenting on the embargo in general, Metaxas characterised it as “unjustifiable since it primarily hurts Russian consumers.”
After the EU imposed further economic sanctions on Russia for its involvement in the Ukraine crisis, Russia retaliated by announcing that it would stop food imports from the EU, the US Australia, Canada and Norway for a full year.
Reuters pointed out that people and companies who attempt to bypass the embargo would have a hard time, since both EU and Russian officials will be on the lookout for large-scale importers trying to smuggle in embargoed goods via third countries.
The scenario where Turkish Cypriot producers could re-label their products as Turkish and export them via Turkey was raised last week by farmers’ union EKA general secretary Panikos Hambas when commenting on how the Russian embargo would affect Cypriot citrus growers. Farmers say the Russian market is worth some €13m in total and called on the government to have Cyprus exempted from the EU sanctions on Russia.
Yesterday, the European Commission said that fruit and vegetable growers would get financial aid of up to €125 million to help them cope with Russia’s ban on most Western food imports, which has created a glut of produce in peak harvest time.
The farmers’ situation will be assessed further at a meeting of agriculture experts representing member states on Friday and at an extraordinary meeting of EU agriculture ministers on September 5.