Australia plays down impact of Russian import ban on agricultural industry

Canberra – The Australian government played down the impact of Russia’s import ban on agricultural products from Australia, saying Australian agriculture “remains strong”.

A joint statement by Australian Trade and Investment Minister Andrew Robb and Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce expressed ” disappointment” on Russia’s decision to ban imports of agricultural products, raw materials and foodstuffs from countries that have imposed sanctions in relation to Russia in response to events in Ukraine.

The Australian government is currently working to assess the full impact of the Russian ban, which is effective for one year.

“Our priority is to ensure the ongoing success of Australian agricultural producers and exporters. The government is already working to ensure Australian producers have access to a wide range of alternative markets,” the statement said.

“The loss of any market is always of concern, and we will work closely with affected producers to minimize the impact on their business.”

Trade with Russia represents 0.4 percent of Australia’s overall trade and Australia’s agricultural exports to Russian accounts for one percent of the country’s total agricultural exports.

In 2013, Australian agricultural exports to Russia were valued at about 405 million AU dollars (375.6 million U.S. dollars), in which some commodities are now already banned, including beef, milk and dairy products, live animals, excluding seafood, and fruit and nuts.

The ministers said Australia is not heavily reliant on the Russian market as Russia ranks only No. 28 on Australia’s list of export destinations.

Australia looks at more important markets such as China, Japan and South Korea as its major agricultural export destinations.

Australia has signed free trade agreements with South Korea and Japan and the FTA talks with China is underway. Those agreements will “open up more opportunities and help further diversify our trade”.

Australia also argued that Russia’s ban may not comply with World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.

“We are considering all options in relation to these new restrictions, and will be consulting with other affected trading partners.”

The Russian government imposed a one-year ban on imports of beef, pork, poultry, fish, cheeses, fruit, vegetables and dairy products from Australia, Canada, the EU, the United States and Norway, the Itar-Tass news agency quoted Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev as saying. Source: Xinhua