On December 6 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus made a statement on “the introduction of a ban on the imports into the territory of the country of a number of goods originating from states applying illegal anti-Belarusian sanctions.” Although the list of goods has not been announced, market participants fear that Belarus will try de-facto to duplicate the so-called “counter-sanctions of Russia”. They were a response to economic sanctions against Russia by a number of influential countries after the annexation of the Ukrainian Autonomous Republic of Crimea by Russia.
If this is the case, the sale of fruit and vegetables may also fall under the ban. This means that one of the most reliable channels for the supply of fruits and vegetables from Ukraine and the EU countries to the Russian market may be blocked.
Who will suffer from such a ban if it is introduced?
First of all, these are consumers in Belarus itself and in Russia. Prices for a number of basic products, such as “borsch set” vegetables and potatoes, are already breaking records in 2021 in these countries. And it is the EU countries and Ukraine that are now making up for the deficit of these products on the Belarusian market.
If we talk about the suppliers that will lose more than others on a hypothetical ban, then this is primarily Poland. During the period of the Russian sanctions, Poland supplied to Belarus fruits and vegetables worth up to $400 million. Although the volume of imports of fruits and vegetables from Poland to Belarus fell sharply in 2020, and re-exports became more complicated, it still remains quite sensitive.
Spanish suppliers of fruits and vegetables will lose much less – up to $70 million. Also, the volumes of supplies of fruits and vegetables to Belarus from the Netherlands, Belgium, Greece and Italy remain quite large. It is not clear whether the sanctions will be extended to Ukraine, but if so, it will be a significant blow to Ukrainian growers of fruit and vegetables of low or average quality, that are currently sold mainly to Belarus.
Commodity items imported from the EU to Belarus in the largest volumes are apples, citrus fruits, berries, grapes, apricots and cherries. At the same time, it is obvious that Belarus will find an alternative to them by purchasing from Turkey, Morocco, Egypt and Central Asian countries. However, consumers will have to pay a higher price for this.
Therefore, it is not obvious yet that the ban will affect food products. After all, high prices for them are still a rather sensitive topic in Belarus.
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