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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia Close to Deal on EU Vegetables

bloombergEU Food Safety Commissioner Markos Kyprianou
Russia is hopeful of signing a deal with the European Union on Tuesday to prevent a blanket ban on plant and vegetable imports from the 25-nation bloc, the government's chief animal and plant safety control official said Saturday.

"We expect to sign a memorandum on the introduction of a single certificate on Tuesday," said Sergei Dankvert, chief inspector for sanitary and veterinary issues at the Agriculture Ministry.

Russia wants a common safety certificate for EU plants and vegetables it imports from April 1 to replace the 25 different national versions that are now in use, and is threatening to ban the trade if a deal is not reached before this date.

The EU has no figure for the value of the bloc's plant and vegetable exports to Russia, but observers say it runs into the hundreds of millions of euros.

Moscow has blocked imports of a string of farm products from EU countries, including Germany, Denmark, Estonia and the Netherlands, saying they do not meet sanitary standards.

After several months of negotiations it lifted a ban on Dutch flowers, cocoa beans, tobacco, tea, soybeans and potato seeds from Feb. 15, and fruit and vegetables from March.

Dankvert is due to meet the EU Food Safety Commissioner Markos Kyprianou in Brussels on Tuesday.

EU diplomats said Friday that Kyprianou will make a fresh offer to Dankvert in a bid to end months of trade tension.

Dankvert said that Moscow had to agree with the EU to a transitional period, during which old certificates will be accepted alongside the new ones, though its length is unclear.

"The EU has proposed a transition period of five months, which I believe is not realistic," he said, declining to say what period he would accept. "It is a subject for negotiations," Dankvert said.

Last year Russia agreed to a three-month transition period for adopting single EU safety certificates on meat imports.

Dankvert said the adoption of the common certificate will not end all problems linked to safety of agricultural imports from the EU.

"European safety standards do not correspond to Russian standards. And we want them to be closer," he said.

He also said the EU has to solve problems linked to forgery of certificates.

"Blank certificates are on sale on the territory of the European Union, and not only European certificates, but also those for other countries like Colombia or Ecuador," Dankvert said. "Although this is a matter for Interpol rather than for us."

Dankvert said he planned to discuss stricter controls on plant exports with his Dutch counterparts on Monday, after Russian officials discovered pests, diseases and violations of safety standards in some flower shipments from the Netherlands.

Pests have also been found in flowers coming from Belgium, including some of Dutch origin, he said.

"On Monday we will have to decide what to do about Belgium. We may ban flower imports from Belgium," he said.