Russian food ban hits Czech farmers

Czech apple, vegetable prices fall markedly due to loss of Russian market

Prague (ČTK) The ban on imports of selected food products to Russia has led to a fall of purchasing prices of summer apples and vegetables in the Czech Republic, according to a poll carried out by ČTK.

According to Agriculture Ministry spokesman Hynek Jordán, retail chains have made use of the situation and have cut purchasing prices of apples as well as processed products, such as apple juice, by at least 20 percent.

Apples, for instance, are being sold for about one half of last year’s price.

“Poland started placing apples on the market for almost zero prices to get rid of them immediately after the embargo was announced,” Czech Fruit Growers’ Union head Martin Ludvík said.

“Prices dropped, of course, everywhere. It affected not only Czech fruit growers but growers all over Europe,” Ludvík said.

According to Ludvík, fruit growers estimate their losses at hundreds of millions of crowns.

The surplus of fruit has already become perceptible on the market, Ludvík said.

Purchasing prices of vegetables have fallen by between 30 and 50 percent after Russia imposed the ban on imports.

“The impact on us is secondary. Commodities that would otherwise be exported by other countries to Russia started to be exported to our country. For the time being, this concerns carrots, cabbage and pepper. Retailers have used this as the best opportunity to cut prices. Purchasing prices of vegetables therefore dropped by 30 up to 50 percent,” vegetable growers’ association chairman Jaroslav Zeman said.

One of the most hard hit food processing companies is dairy Madeta, which has had to reduce production. Madeta has been exporting a major part of its output to Russia.

Madeta has reduced production mainly in its Český Krumlov plant producing the Niva cheese, which is very popular in Russia. Before the embargo, Madeta used to sell 60 tons of Niva in Russia monthly.

Czech flower growers, too, fear the impacts of the Ukrainian crisis and a possible restriction of flower imports to Russia. Though Czech companies do not virtually export flowers to Russia, the impact on them may be secondary as in the case of fruit growers, Union of Flower Growers and Florists head Jiří Horák said.

“It may become a problem for us if some Polish or Dutch goods return from Russia. They might attempt to sell them on the Czech market,” Horák said.

Russia banned all imports of meat, fish, milk, dairy products, fruit and vegetables from the EU, the US and several other western countries in early August in reaction to western sanctions imposed on selected Russian companies and economic sectors over the crisis in Ukraine.

According to a document of the Czech government’s working group monitoring the impacts of the sanctions, domestic fruit and vegetable growers will lose between 590 million Kč and 1.42 billion Kč in sales in connection with the sanctions and the subsequent fall of prices.

According to the document, the price drop will affect about 900 apple growers and 470 vegetable growers.

The Agriculture Ministry estimates that domestic exporters of agricultural and food products will lose between 250 million Kč and 300 million Kč in sales.

According to the Food Chamber, the damage caused by the fall in the prices of commodities could reach billions of crowns for Czech producers.

At the end of August, the European Commission (EC) made an extraordinary release of about 125 million (nearly 3.5 billion Kč) as a financial assistance to fruit and vegetable growers.

Czech Agriculture Minister Marian Jurečka told ČTK after a Sept. 5 meeting of EU agriculture ministers in Brussels that he planned to launch a promotional campaign this autumn to motivate Czech consumers to buy domestic products.

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