Call for shoppers to spend €3 a month more on local products

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In order to soften the blow on Latvian exporters affected by Russia’s embargo on EU food product imports, the average consumer would need to spend just an extra €3 per month on buying only Latvian-sourced goods, estimate economists.

Such a healthy mode of economic patriotism would be quite timely, say economists, and could significantly help reduce the effect of the countersanctions on Latvian producers. However, some local residents have mixed feelings about that.

According to expert estimates, in the first five months of 2014 Latvia exported to Russia the now-banned food goods categories to about €33m worth, which was on the way to making up a projected €70m by the year’s end. That in turn would have comprised about one half of a percent of Latvia’s total exports, which when divided by the number of the resident population, allows for the €3 figure per person to mitigate the sanctions’ consequences.

Commercial bank DNB analyst Pēteris Strautiņš agrees with the calculations.

“I would note that the cost per consumer would be even less than €3.” he told Latvian Radio (LR) Friday. “Not all of the unearned €70m will be lost – part will be recovered through reexport, sold off in other markets. So to compensate those hit hardest by the loss of the Russian market, Latvian consumers need spend less than €3 a month on local cheeses and fish products that should otherwise have been sold in Russia,” he added.

Residents canvassed on the streets by LSM expressed different views.

“I’m retired, 83 years old. I don’t have enough money for all of my medicines, I buy only the most critical ones. I avoid food products like meat and fruit because then I run out of money,” said one man.

“What could a pensioner hope for, it’s tough, very tough and I can’t afford to spend a cent more,” said one elderly woman.

On his part, state central bank economist Andris Strazds warned against veering towards the opposite extreme – protectionism. He told LR that to pursue an extended trade war with one’s neighbor would be undesirable and unacceptable.

“If we now stop buying our neighbor’s products and they then say – we won’t buy Latvian goods, then we’re both losers,” he said.

The Russian food imports embargo against the EU applies to beef, pork, fruits, vegetables, poultry, fish, cheese, milk and dairy products. Sprats have not yet been listed among types of food goods forbidden by the embargo.

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