Switzerland rejects requests from EU firms to bypass Russia’s food ban

Russia has reportedly asked Switzerland to produce Mozarella and Gouda. [Joy Ito/Flickr]

Switzerland has rebuffed attempts by some EU food producers to sidestep a Russian ban on food imports from the EU and other Western countries by labelling such foods as originating from the Alpine country, the Wall Street Journal wrote.

Switzerland is exempt from Russia’s retaliatory measures because it isn’t participating in Western sanctions against the country following its annexation of Crimea earlier this year, and Moscow’s continued support for separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.

Some EU food producers have sought ways around the Russian ban by exporting through Switzerland, the Swiss Federal Office for Agriculture said on 19 August, as quoted by the Wall Street Journal. The office said it has rejected requests from fruit, vegetable and foodstuffs producers, but declined to give further details.

Switzerland is required to certify food exports for hygiene, which it can’t do if the products are processed outside its borders, said Jurg Jordi, a spokesman for the office.

Switzerland has previously pledged to prevent Russia from using its territory to bypass Western countries’ sanctions.

Apparently Switzerland may increase its sales in Russia in the current context. InterCheese AG, a Swiss cheese exporter, said it has been contacted by some of its Russian customers looking for alternative suppliers for cheeses, especially Dutch Gouda and Italian mozzarella, which are subject to the Russian government ban.

Unlike Switzerland, other countries such as Belarus or Serbia are reportedly more eager to circumvent the food ban and sell foodstuffs originating from Western countries as originating from their territory.

>> Read: After food ban, Russia markets shrimp “from Belarus”

According to the website of the Russian television, the top Western food suppliers to Russia are as follows:

  1. Germany with $1.83 billion (€1.38 billion)
  2. Poland with $1.55 billion (€1.17 billion)
  3. USA with $1.54 billion (€1.16 billion)
  4. Netherlands with $1.42 billion (€1.07 billion)
  5. France with $1.42 billion (€1.07 billion)
  6. Italy with $1.34 billion (€.01 billion)
  7. Spain with $1.26 billion (€950 million)

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, signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin on 6 August, comes after he ordered retaliation for Western sanctions against Moscow. The decree halts or limits imports of agricultural products from countries that have imposed sanctions on Russia, ordering the government to come up with a list of imports to be banned for a year.

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.

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