Russia extends ban on western produce imports until the end of 2021
Russia's President Vladimir Putin has extended an embargo on western food imports until the end of 2021, in a move that will come as a blow to EU exporters hoping to regain a foothold in the market.
The embargo was introduced in 2014 after Russia's annexation of the Crimean peninsula led to sanctions that Brussels renewed for another six months at the end of June.
The EU has refused to recognize Russian's March 2014 annexation of Crimea and has condemned Moscow's support for separatists that control parts of eastern Ukraine that border Russia as a violation of international law.
Western sanctions have hit all parts of the Russian economy and that, combined with the fall in oil prices, helped push the country into the longest recession since Putin took power in 2000.
The Russian embargo hit the fresh produce sectors in numerous European countries hard, with many nations heavily reliant on the Russian market. Among the most affected countries were Poland, the world's largest apple exporter which shipped primarily to Russia, Eastern European nations, and Spain.
The embargo also has severe knock-on effects for the European market, resulting in oversupply situations and low prices and producers and exporters scrambled to find alternative markets for their produce.
Russian authorities have insisted that the sanctions have allowed it to develop its domestic industries including farming, thanks to substantial subsidies.
Critics claim the embargo is, in reality, a protectionist measure aimed at protecting the Russian agricultural food market, unable to compete with western exports.
In fact, many Russian producers want the ban on the West to be prolonged as long as possible.
The first time that Russia imposed this food embargo, which it extends annually, was in August 2014 against the EU, the US, Australia, Norway and Canada , to which it later on added Albania, Montenegro, Iceland and Liechenstein in 2015 , and in 2016 added Ukraine .