Russian Food Ban Will Hit Greek Goods

ATHENS – Despite assurances Greek foodstuffs may be exempted from a Russian food commodities ban on European countries and the US in retaliation for sanctions over Ukraine, Greek officials are preparing for what could be 180 million euros in losses.

Earlier, Greek officials said they were hopeful that Russia, an ally and fellow Orthodox country with whom Greek Premier Antonis Samaras has good ties with President Vladimir Putin, would be given a pass.

That prospect has faded after reports that the Kremlin overruled Russian officials in Greece who had confided to Greek counterparts that Greek fruits, meats, dairy products and other goods would likely be exempted because Greek had opposed US, UN and EU sanctions on Russia.

Greek Foreign Ministry sources told the newspaper Kathimerini that proposed exemptions for Greece might run into legal obstacles as well as Russia was due to publish the ban in official papers.

Ministry officials referred to a “positive climate” between Greek and Russian diplomats and said it was likely that Moscow would wait until early next week – to gauge the West’s reaction to its embargo decision – before finalizing a list of banned imports.

The prospect of a protracted delay has fueled concerns in Athens as the bulk of the exports that would be affected by the Russian embargo are perishable goods such as fruit and vegetables. Russian importers have already canceled several orders from Greece.

Worries were heightened on Aug. 8 after a scheduled meeting between Greek Embassy officials in Moscow and members of Russia’s food inspection service was postponed. It is now expected that Greece’s Ambassador in Moscow, Danai-Magdalini Koumanakou, will meet with service officials on Aug. 11.

Greek officials are now said to be preparing preparing for the potential fallout from a Russian embargo and to have drafted a request for compensation from the European Union for likely losses.

Agricultural experts from all 28 members of the EU are scheduled to meet in Brussels on Aug. 14 to discuss the likely impact of Russia’s embargo on food imports. Moscow’s ban also applies to imports from the US, Canada and non-EU member Norway.

Among the many valued Greek agricultural products, peach and tomato producers among those expected to suffer the most.