Government and food producers rally to face Russian embargo

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Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma has called for an extraordinary Cabinet meeting to discuss the impact of Russia’s embargo on food imports from states declaring sanctions against the country.

As LSM learned from the prime minister’s spokeswoman Džeina Tamuļeviča, she is cutting short her vacation to gather representatives of Latvia’s Employer’s Confederation, the Chamber of Trade and Industry, as well as various food producing sector organization leaders for the talks.

Agriculture minister Janis Duklavs and Transportation minister Anrijs Matiss are also slated to take part in the discussions of possible measures to mitigate the embargo’s impact on Latvia’s food producers.

On her part President Andris Bērziņš’ press secretary Līga Krapāne told Latvian Radio the currently vacationing head-of-state is apprised of the situation and is not surprised at Russia’s answer, which had to be taken into consideration. He has expressed confidence that Latvia’s food producers have not been caught unprepared and have spent at least two years targeting new markets besides just a few.

Meanwhile sector leaders predict that Russia’s counter-sanctions will be hard especially on Latvia’s dairy, meat-, and fish-processing companies, Food Producers’ Federation chief Ināra Šure stated in a press release Thursday.

“That means a failed attempt to reorient to other national markets in worst case scenario could lead to a rise in unemployment,” she warned.

The food producers’ sector NGO also supports EU member initiative to request aid from the European Commission to compensate losses caused by the countervailing sanctions and deem the Baltic states a buffer zone of extra economic vulnerability.

“By the same token, if Russia has prohibited our products from coming in, then why should we let them bring their products in here?”, she asked.

Šure urged the government to make a support plan for producers and service providers pulled into the sanctions’ impact.

The Federation representative said last year’s exports to Russia totaled €656m, comprising about a quarter of total exports. The figures were also approximately confirmed in a statement Thursday by Agriculture ministry state secretary Dace Lucaue, who added that exports to Russia have grown in the last four months to reach a full 25% of the total.

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