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Russian food sanctions likely won’t affect Kansas

By The Mercury

Kansas wheat and beef exports likely won’t be affected by Russia’s decision on Thursday to impose a ban on most food imports from the West.

The Associated Press reported that the unexpected sweeping move comes in retaliation for sanctions over Ukraine and will cost farmers in North America, Europe and Australia billions of dollars.

However, two of Kansas’ top agricultural products should remain largely unaffected, according to organization representatives.

“It won’t have any impact because we’re an export competitor with Russia on wheat,” said Aaron Harries, marketing director for the Kansas Wheat Commission. “They don’t import any wheat from the United States.”

Harries said Russia exports most of its wheat to countries in the Middle East and countries in Africa. Kansas sends the bulk of its wheat crop to South America countries, while Nigeria is also a major importer.

Russia hasn’t imported beef or pork from the United States since before February 2013, when the country put a stop to imports due to concerns over beta agonists, a class of non-hormonal compounds fed to cattle.

In 2012, Russia imported $589 million in United States beef and pork products, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation.

By imposing the ban, Russia will also likely lead to empty shelves in its cities.

The announcement shows that while President Vladimir Putin doesn’t appear ready to heed Russian nationalists’ calls to send troops into Ukraine, he is prepared to inflict significant damage on his own nation in an economic war with the West.

The U.S. and the EU have accused Russia, which annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in March, of supplying arms and expertise to a pro-Moscow insurgency in eastern Ukraine, and have sanctioned individuals and companies in Russia in retaliation. Moscow denies supporting the rebels and accuses the West of blocking attempts at a political settlement by encouraging Kiev to use brutal force to crush the insurgency.

The ban, announced by a somber Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev at a televised Cabinet meeting, covers all imports of meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, milk and milk products from the U.S., the European Union, Australia, Canada and Norway. It will last for one year.

“Until the last moment, we hoped that our foreign colleagues would understand that sanctions lead to a deadlock and no one needs them,” Medvedev said. “But they didn’t, and the situation now requires us to take retaliatory measures.”

That retaliation, however, could hurt Russia as much as the West. Russia depends heavily on imported foodstuffs, most of it from Europe, particularly in Moscow and other large, prosperous cities. In 2013, the EU exported 11.8 billion euros ($15.8 billion) in agricultural goods to Russia, while the U.S. sent $1.3 billion in food and agricultural goods.

If the West doesn’t change course, Russia may introduce restrictions on the import of planes, navy vessels, cars and other industrial products, Medvedev warned. He also said that in response to EU sanctions against Russian low-cost airline Dobrolet, Russia is also considering a ban on Western carriers flying over Russia on flights to and from Asia, which would significantly swell costs and increase flight time.

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