Food producers braced for Russia sanctions

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Latvia's food exporters are preparing to cope with the effects of economic sanctions after Russia - a major trade partner - announced a ban on food imports from countries that in turn have announced trade sanctions against Russia over its role in the Ukraine crisis.

Speaking on LTV's Rita Panorama news show, Inguna Gulbe of the Agricultural Producers' Marketing Center, said the situation presented "a serious challenge" to Latvia's food producers.

However, experience with previous punitive actions by Russia such as questionable bans on canned fish and dairy products meant that Latvian producers were familiar with the scenario.  

"Many producers have diversified into other markets but there are others that remain more reliant on the markets of the former Soviet Union and it will be difficult for them to find markets," Gulbe said.

Latvian Fish Processing Industry Association president Didzis Smits admitted that "at the moment everything is calm, but we're not so sure of tomorrow."

With Russia a major destination for Latvian fish products, sanctions would affect not only companies but the whole community in fishing areas with possible knock-on effects for municipalities if fishing companies that are major tax payers are driven out of business.

"We need to think not just about the businesses but about the thousands of people who are employed in the fishing industry," Smits said, calling on extra support from central government and the European Union to support workers whose jobs are on the line.

On Wednesday Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree that announced bans lasting until the end of the year on the import of agricultural goods and food products from EU member states, the US, Canada and others that have joined in imposing sanctions on his regime.

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