Russia suspects fraudulent documents in blocked vegetable shipment
In recent weeks Russia's food import watchdog has made a substantial number of interceptions of produce suspected to be illegal due to the embargo, mostly ranging at 19 metric tons (MT) or 20MT per lot.
But the most recent report involved more than 10 times that amount.
Several vegetable shipments weighing a total of 245MT have been blocked from entering Russia from Kazakhstan, due to either absent or suspected fake phytosanitary certificates.
The produce was transported in numerous vehicles between April 16-19, and included a 109MT batch of carrots, cabbage and onions, a 75.6MT consignment of carrots, kale and fresh herbs, 40MT of onions, 20MT of cabbage, and 500kg of almonds.
Russia's Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance (Rosselkhoznadzor) said on its website the 40MT onion shipment was blocked as the accompanying Kazakh phytosanitary certificate 'had the signs of a fake'.
The other shipments were not granted access to the former Soviet country as they either lacked the certificates altogether or the produce's origins were unclear.
Rosselkhoznadzor did not say if there was any link between the various blocked shipments, which were being transported into the country's Chelyabinsk region. The produce was all returned to Kazakhstan.
A report by European Fresh Produce Association, Freshfel, earlier this year showed countries suspected of 'gray trade' exports to Russia had been receiving substantially more produce grown in EU countries, which are not permitted to export to Russia under the trade embargo implemented last August.
The report showed EU fruit and vegetable exports to Kazakhstan between August to November 2014 had increased 108% year-on-year to reach 25,247MT. Belarus also notched a 141% increase in its EU produce imports reaching 281,234MT, while Bosnia & Herzegovina's figures jumped 164% to 39,093MT.
Along with the blocked vegetable consignments, Russian authorities have continued to intercept Polish apple shipments from entering the country, even for transit purposes.
Two loads of apples totaling 39MT that were being transported into Russia from Belarus on April 18 and 20, reportedly with documentation saying the fruit was intended for sale in Kazakhstan, were denied entry.
Land shipments must generally pass through Russia from Belarus in order to reach the Central Asian country, and the 2010 Eurasian Customs Union (EACU) led to the removal of customs borders between the three countries.
Armenia and Kyrgyzstan also joined the EACU in January 2015.
The photos below were published on Rosselkhoznadzor's website and are purported to show part of the two most recent shipments of blocked Polish apples and an accompanying label.