Belarus has responded to the latest international sanctions by implementing an embargo on food imports into the country for food products originating from the EU, as well as the UK, Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, North Macedonia, Albania, the US, and Canada. Fruit and vegetables are included in the list along with other food categories such as meat, dairy products, and confectionery products, while carefully excluding seeds.
Freshfel Europe has expressed concerns about this new restriction on international trade impacting primarily upon European fruit and vegetables and affecting around 10% of current EU fresh produce exports to third country markets. The ban jeopardises about 10% of current EU exports, which are also under pressure due to multiple factors such as SPS hurdles and growing protectionism, as well as new COVID restrictions and logistics issues.
Philippe Binard, general delegate of Freshfel Europe, said: “Once again, European fruit and vegetables are the hostages of international geopolitical disputes. In 2014, the Russian embargo deeply hit the fresh produce sector, challenging a well-established business of more than 2 million tons of exports to a neighbour market. The European fruit and vegetables is already bearing about a third of the €7.5 billion worth burden of the Russian embargo. Later in the decade, the Algerian embargo affected close to 300,000 tons of exports. Most recently, the US also included fruit and vegetables in retaliation measures impacting in particular the citrus category. Freshfel Europe can only lament that fruit and vegetables are too often taken as bargaining chip for other disputes.”
The Belarus embargo will affect 400,000-500,000 tons of fresh produce exports from the European Union, primarily apples, pears, strawberries, and tomatoes. The new embargo will impact the whole European fruit and vegetables supply chain and a direct business value of around €300 million.
Binard said: “Several European suppliers are on the frontline of the new restrictions. Poland is by far the main supplier to Belarus with more than 250,000 tons exported in 2020 and 350,000 tons in 2019. Other suppliers include Lithuania, the Netherlands, Spain, Greece, and Italy.”