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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia Offers EU Hope on Farm Goods Trade

VedomostiAgriculture Minister Alexei Gordeyev
BERLIN -- Russia may soon lift import curbs on some European Union farm goods, Russia's food safety chief said Friday as the two sides groped for a settlement to a series of recent clashes over trade in food products.

"We hope to lift the restrictions for some products for some countries," Sergei Dankvert, head of Russia's Federal Service for Veterinarian and Vegetation Sanitary Supervision, said Friday at a food trade fair in Berlin, mentioning Germany and the Netherlands.

"The first [products] that could be opened could be tobacco, soymeal and cocoa," Dankvert told a news conference.

Coffee import restrictions could also be lifted, he said.

Russia has banned imports of a range of vegetable products from EU states, saying they did not meet sanitary standards.

European diplomats and analysts have seen the new Russian food bans either as a warning that it wants the EU to hold to the bargain struck in an earlier dispute over meat, or as an attempt to win a bigger share of the EU wheat import market.

But Moscow has insisted that food safety is the issue.

In a separate interview at the Green Week fair, EU Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner Markos Kyprianou said: "The negotiations are taking place in good spirit so we are optimistic we will come to a solution."

However, signs were emerging of problems in other areas, with Poland about to complain to EU farm ministers next week that Russia is dragging its feet over accepting dairy imports.

Dankvert said he was very satisfied with the progress of the introduction of a single veterinary certificate for imports of animal products from the EU on Jan. 1.

Asked how long Russia would continue an import ban on Dutch products -- including flowers -- Agriculture Minister Alexei Gordeyev told the news conference he was still concerned about how safety certificates were issued in the Netherlands.

"We have as an example established that during a flower auction in the Netherlands, Russian [vegetable products safety] certificates stamped and signed were also sold at a price of 500 euros per document," Gordeyev said.

The Dutch Agriculture Ministry says Russia wants a resolution similar to that reached in the bigger dispute with the EU last year over meat exports.

Moscow then insisted that its EU food imports meet the same strict safety standards that the bloc requires from Russia, and demanded common safety certificates for meat imports.

"The Russians want to see a result before April 1," said a Dutch ministry spokesman. "They want a single certificate for plants and vegetables just like in the meat case."

The meat row was resolved in September, freeing Russian meat imports from the 25-member bloc worth 1.3 billion euros per year.

The Dutch see 500 million euros ($650 million) of exports at risk.