Russia says could replace any Western food sanctions from elsewhere

by Reuters
Friday, 25 April 2014 11:29 GMT

* Russia's AgMin says some deficit is possible, but not large

* Says Russia would be able to find alternative food suppliers

* U.S. and Europe to discuss further sanctions on Friday

KHABAROVSK, Russia, April 25 (Reuters) - As Washington and its European allies discuss extending sanctions against Moscow for its actions in Ukraine, Russia's Agriculture Minister told reporters on Friday that higher food imports from other countries would make up for any EU cuts.

Russia's annexation of Crimea peninsula from Ukraine in March resulted in limited sanctions, mostly targeting individuals, but U.S. President Barack Obama will call leaders in the European Union later on Friday to urge more costly measures if Moscow does not rein in armed pro-Russian rebels who have seized government buildings in the east of Ukraine or if its troops make further incursions.

Agriculture Minister Nikolai Fyodorov said Russia did not expect a big deficit in any sector in the event of sanctions and there was a queue of countries ready to raise supplies if needed.

"We always have had alternative countries ... which could quickly start supplies of products, a possible deficit of which we expect to appear," Agriculture Minister Nikolai Fyodorov said when asked about a possible decrease in supplies from the EU.

Russia, the world's largest country, imports food products worth more than $40 billion a year to feed its population of more than 140 million people.

"(They) say: we heard (that) limits are possible. Can you send an inspection to us, please?

Fyodorov said suppliers were telling him: "We would like to be the first to supply products as an alternative to Poland or Lithuania or some other country."

And despite Washington's stance, he said U.S. meat producers were keen to sell to Russia, which recently limited most meat imports from the United States and Australia due to the use of a productivity stimulant, and from the European union due to an outbreak of African Swine Fever.

He also said current weather was favourable for the country to achieve a grain harvest of between 95 million and 97 million tonnes in 2014 in order to secure no less than 20 million tonnes for export during the 2014/15 marketing year. (Reporting by Denis Dyomkin; Writing by Polina Devitt; Editing by Will Waterman)

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