Representatives of the Russian and Turkish governments have put the wheels in motion to lift “the maximum number of restrictions” on trade as soon as possible.
The Turkish press reports the current Russian import ban on many produce items – including tomatoes and table grapes – is costing the economy US$500 million in losses. The embargo stems from a retaliatory response to the gunning down of a Russian jet by Turkish forces near the Turkish-Syrian border in 2015.
A Turkish delegation headed by Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Şimşek traveled to Moscow this week to discuss the issue with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich.
“Participants noted that there is a common desire to remove the maximum number of restrictions that currently exist, as soon as possible,” the Russian Government said in a release.
“There was also a general understanding that some sensitive issues require step-by-step work.
“Within two weeks, intensive consultations will be held to determine the schedule for further action.”
The schedule will provide for the terms and stages of removing certain restrictions.
“During the meeting Arkady Dvorkovich also drew attention to the fact that the Russian side in any case expects the Turkish partners to lift the restrictions on grain supplies introduced this year,” the release said.
The announcement will bring sighs of relief to Turkish and Russian fruit traders, but not everyone wants to see the restrictions lifted too soon.
Russian Union of Vegetable Producers president Sergei Korolyov told TASS that Russian farmers needed three more years of restrictions on Turkish imports so they could gain a stronger foothold in the domestic market.
“By 2020, we will de-facto dominate our own market of tomatoes and cucumbers. As far as cucumbers are concerned, we have already gained dominance on the market,” Korolyov was quoted as saying.
“With regard to tomatoes, we need about three years to ensure the dominant position, namely to occupy 80-90% of the market.”
The story reported Korolyov estimated 40-50% of tomatoes and 80% cucumbers sold in Russia are grown domestically, compared to just 18% before the embargo.
“The investments that had been made allow us to say that by 2020 we will substitute nearly all imports of greenhouse vegetables,” the union leader was quoted as saying, highlighting investments of more than US$2.6 billion in agricultural projects over the last four years, which would need a total of eight years to be completed.