"Unpredictable" whether Russia will ban Turkish produce imports, says Koziy
Update: Since this article was published Russia has announced a ban on Turkish produce imports.
Russia says it is preparing wide-ranging sanctions against Turkey after the downing of military aircraft on the Syrian border this week, but exactly what those measures will involve is yet to be seen.
Moscow-based RK Marketing/FruitNews director Irina Koziy told www.freshfruitportal.com it was 'highly unpredictable' whether a ban on Turkish produce imports will be implemented, adding it seemed officials had mainly been discussing sanctions on other industries.
"At the moment emotions are high and there are lots of politics and different opinions around the situation with Turkey," she said.
"From some of the wording of the Russian President [Vladimir Putin] or his administration, we can conclude that there is no plan to really escalate the conflict. However, it’s hard to tell what the end will look like.
"The questions about fresh produce are mostly coming from the media, not from the official sources - at this point at least."
She said one government representative who had raised the topic was Agriculture Minsiter Alexander Tkachyov, who had claimed the country could easily supplement Turkish food supplies in the event of an import ban.
"From my point of view this is very questionable claim," Koziy said, adding prices would likely rise for Russian consumers, while produce variety and quality may fall.
She estimated Turkey typically shipped approximately US$1.5 billion worth of fruit and vegetables to the market each year, including a range of major produce items.
"Turkey is a very large supplier of citrus, the number one supplier of grapes, and a very large supplier of stonefruit.
"Of course for grapes and stonefruit we are out of the season already, apart from maybe some very small quantities of grapes, but we are now entering the citrus season."
Turkey supplies around one third of Russia's imported citrus, according to Koziy, with oranges making up the majority of volumes.
She said Russia may look to Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and Israel to fill the citrus gap, but believed it would not be easy for them to supply approximately 500,000 metric tons (MT) of citrus which Turkey exports to Russia annually.
Looking at vegetables, Koziy said tomatoes would most likely be the biggest issue for Russia if an import ban were imposed.
"Turkey is one of the very few tomato suppliers that’s left for the Russian market, now that Spanish tomatoes are out.
"Russia depends on imported tomatoes quite significantly because in terms of other vegetables we do grow quite a lot, but for tomatoes about 65-70% of tomatoes we consume are imported."
She added local tomato supply in Russia during the winter season was much lower due to the significant costs of electricity to heat and light the greenhouses.