Russia permits imports of Hungarian, Italian vegetables from July 25.

22/7 Tass 242

MOSCOW, July 22 (Itar-Tass) —— The Federal Consumer Rights and Human Well Being Service has permitted the imports of Hungarian and Italian vegetables starting from July 25 on condition “the vegetables have a certificate issued by appropriate authorities in home countries.”

The certificates will guarantee the absence of E.coli bacteria in the imported products.

A protocol of June 22, 2011, has allowed the resumption of vegetable imports from Belgium, Greece, Denmark, Spain, the Netherlands, Poland, France and the Czech Republic.

Russia is prepared to resume vegetable imports from Europe on guarantee of EU services, President Dmitry Medvedev told a press conference after the Russia-EU Nizhny Novgorod summit on June 10.

“We discussed the issue at the summit. That is a sensitive issue, which has a commercial dimension. We discussed a mechanism of the resumption of European vegetable supplies to the Russian market. We are ready to do that on guarantees on EU services,” Medvedev said. “It is necessary to coordinate a certificate, which will confirm the security of foods delivered to Russia.”

In turn, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said that the lift of the vegetable ban had been coordinated and promised immediate certification of European vegetables.

Chief Public health Official Gennady Onishchenko, who took part in the summit as an expert, said that Russia would be lifting the ban for each particular shipment of vegetables on guarantees of the European Commission.

“Quality standards are well known. The accompanying document must confirm the absence of a particular bacterium [in the products] and be issued for the particular shipment. This is an easy measure,” he said.

Russia banned the imports of European vegetables on June 2 and said Russia would permit European vegetables on its market after it received information about the source of the infection, the mechanism of its transmission and geography.

The European Commission called on Russia to withdraw the ban immediately.

The Commission said it “protested to the Russian Federation against the Russian ban on all EU vegetable exports to Russia, and requested the immediate withdrawal of the measure.”

The commission, which called the measure “disproportionate,” said it lodged its complaint in a letter sent by EU Health Commissioner John Dalli to the Russian authorities.

It also “expressed concerns” about the ban and noted that the latest tests carried out in Spain and Germany showed that cucumbers were not responsible for the outbreak of the deadly strain of E.coli in Germany.

The commission, which removed Spanish cucumbers from its food alert system for the 27-nation EU, also said the outbreak “is restricted to a limited geographical area — it is affecting primarily the northern part of Germany.”

Finally, in the letter, the commission underlined that it has kept all of its trading partners, including Russia, fully informed about all developments on the STEC outbreak in a transparent manner and pledges to continue doing so.

Amid fears of the possible hike of vegetable prices in Russia, the State Duma called for multi-level monitoring of vegetable prices in order to avoid speculative demand.

“Russia does not fear a deficit of vegetables on the domestic market,” Chairman of the State Duma Agrarian Committee Valentin Denisov (United Russia) said. “EU vegetable imports neared $480 million in 2009 and topped $720 million in 2010. There was a poor vegetable harvest [in Russia] last year so we had to increase the imports, including those from EU member countries. This year the situation is favorable, so the halved imports will bring us back to the year 2009, in which we had no [vegetable] deficit,” he said.

As for the possible growth of prices, “it is important to prevent a recurrence of the buckwheat situation. There was speculative demand for buckwheat last year, which developed into a deficit. That must not happen to vegetables. We need multi-level monitoring [of vegetable prices] by governmental agencies and public organizations. The media must not stir panic,” Denisov said.

As for the European Commission’s reaction, Denisov said that they simply feared the closure of the market segment. “They are aware that their temporarily vacant place will be taken by non-EU member countries. For instance, Turkey may enlarge the supplies. That is the question of pure market rivalry. Russia is a very promising market, and everyone is fighting for it,” he said.

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