Moscow retaliates with import ban on EU, US food

Russia has escalated an economic battle set off by the crisis in Ukraine with a ban on all food imports from the United States and on fruit and vegetables from the European Union, dropping any pretence these might be for food safety reasons.

The import ban, reported by state news agency Ria Novosti on Wednesday (6 August), comes after Russia President Vladimir Putin ordered retaliation for Western sanctions against Moscow.

Russia is a major buyer of European fruit and vegetables but ranks 23rd among buyers of food from the United States, accounting for less than 1% of America's farm exports.

Putin signed a decree on Wednesday halting or limiting imports of agricultural products from countries that have imposed sanctions on Russia, ordering his government to come up with a list of imports to be banned for a year.

"[All food products] that are being produced in the US and being supplied to Russia will be banned," Ria Novosti quoted Alexei Alekseenko, spokesman for the VPSS food standards agency, as saying. "Fruit and vegetables from EU will be covered by the total ban," he added.

No one was available for comment at the VPSS (Phytosanitary Surveillance Service), but earlier Alekseenko told Reuters that retaliatory action would be "quite substantial" and would include US poultry. Russians have a strong appetite for US chicken, buying 276,100 tonnes of it last year, or 8% of US exports.

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