Red peppers at an auction in Zaltbommel, Netherlands. In response to sanctions imposed by Western governments, Russia instituted a one-year ban last week on imports of vegetables, meat, fish, dairy and fruit from the US, EU, Canada, Norway and Australia. Photo: EPA

Barbara Lewis Brussels

EU REGULATORS yesterday began analysing product-by-product the impact of a Russian ban on EU food imports announced in retaliation for Western sanctions over Moscow’s actions in Ukraine.

But they said it was too soon to decide how much, if any, of a e400 million (R5.7 billion) EU compensation fund might be paid out to help farmers.

EU agriculture commissioner Dacian Ciolos interrupted the traditional August break of the European Commission to return to Brussels at the weekend, together with other senior staff, and yesterday they set up a task force.

The aim is to work out alternative markets and to analyse the fallout from Russia’s one-year ban, announced last week, on imports of meat, fish, dairy, fruit and vegetables from the US, the EU, Canada, Australia and Norway.

With some member states piling on the pressure for redress, they could also agree to award compensation from a special fund signed into law at the end of last year, as part of agricultural reforms. To date, the fund has not been used.

Roger Waite, a commission spokesman, said: “We are looking at every product individually. We hope that by Thursday we will be in a position to have a clearer picture of the potential impact so that we can discuss it with the member states.”

Agricultural experts from the EU’s 28 member states will meet in Brussels on Thursday to plan a co-ordinated strategy.

Last month the EU agreed to its toughest sanctions against Moscow in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and alleged support for separatist rebels. Moscow initially said it would not stoop to a tit-for-tat response, but last week it took aim at Western food imports, a move many analysts say could hurt Russian consumers more than it affects Western farmers.

While the commission said it reserved the right to respond to Russia’s ban, Ciolos said any response must be proportionate. – Reuters