Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Simon Coveney has said his department is in "intensive engagement" with Russian authorities in relation to agritrade issues following Moscow's ban on EU food imports.
Representative groups in Ireland have warned of the "serious implications" of the one-year ban for producers, which Russia announced yesterday on all fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, milk and dairy imports from the European Union, United States, Australia, Canada and Norway.
The move is in response to western sanctions imposed on Russia for its role in the Ukrainian crisis.
Mr Coveney said the move was “obviously unwelcome” from an Irish and broader EU perspective, but “we cannot say it was totally unanticipated, given the recent evolution of events. My department are currently working to clarify the specific details of the ban.
“The impact on Ireland will depend both on the products covered by the ban and any knock-on effects on international market prices as banned products seek replacement markets.
“Whilst Ireland’s agrifood export trade with Russia represents less than 2.5 per cent of total agrifood export, this very much belies the importance of this market in terms of its future potential.
“The obvious preference is for a normalisation of trade relations but these issues cannot be viewed without taking into account the overall political context.
“My department will maintain an ongoing assessment of the situation, where intensive engagement is already ongoing with Russian authorities regarding agritrade issues including temporary restrictions already in place on certain exports in specific sectors.”
Mr Coveney added initial indications were that casein infant formula and tea extract do not fall under the ban. Casein accounted for €11.3 million of Ireland’s €17.8 million dairy exports to Russia in 2013.
A spokeswoman for Bord Bia said exports of Irish food and drink to Russia in 2013 were worth €232 million and were dominated by prepared foods, meat, dairy, seafood and drinks. Trade in prepared foods accounted for almost half this amount at €112 million, while pigmeat exports, the second most important category, amounted to €59 million.
Trade in pigmeat to Russia ceased following the Russian suspension of EU-wide pigmeat imports at the end of January. Seafood, dairy and beef exports in 2013 were valued at a total of €48 million.
A spokesman for Food and Drink Industry Ireland, the Ibec group representing the Irish food sector, said the ban was “a cause for serious concern” as Russia is a “significant market”.
“This ban, which affects dairy and meat exports in particular, will have serious direct and indirect implications for the sector,” he said.
Bord Bia has established a dedicated support unit to assist companies with the trading situation with Russia.
It can be contacted on 01-6142292.