UK exporters must replace Russia with new markets: minister
George Eustice calls on exporters to seek out new emerging markets
George Eustice, the UK's minister for farming, food and the marine environment, has insisted UK exporters must seek out new export markets to replace Russia and offset lost business due to the country's trade embargo.
The minister said there is no end in sight to Russian trade restrictions, implemented as part of the rapid escalation of political tensions between Moscow and western governments over the Ukrainian crisis. In response to the sanctions, the Russian authorities introduced bans on meat, fish, dairy and produce from the US, EU, Australia, Canada and Norway in August.
Speaking at an event for UK exporters yesterday (10 December), Eustice said the Russian sanctions are unlikely to ease in the near term. "Our expectation is nothing is going to happen soon on that front. The action that the Russian Federation has taken is totally unjustified," he told an audience of UK food exporters at the Food & Drink Export Association meeting in London.
"Our focus, particularly when it comes to some of our exports [that have been] affected, is to try and find new markets for those products. Interestingly, the Russians haven't stopped whisk[e]y - they like their drink too much to stop some of those exports. But when it comes to some of the sectors that have been affected, such as dairy or mackerel, we have been reasonably successful with mackerel opening new markets, such as Nigeria."
Eustice added the EU is also providing a support package for those "most affected by the Russian ban". The UK, however, has refused to support the bloc's dairy aid, insisting that it does not represent a long-term solution.
Eustice, who chairs Defra's food and drink export forum, said the sector's exports rose by 6% last year. However, he stressed the majority of UK food exports are sold into neighbouring markets such as Ireland.
"There is much more we can do in emerging markets - the so-called BRIC markets - particularly Brazil and China," the minister suggested.
With only 3% of UK food exports destined for the BRICs, Eustice suggested UK exporters have failed to make as much progress as their European peers in these high-growth markets.
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