On 6 August 2014, Moscow announced an embargo on imports of a range of agricultural products from the EU, applicable from 7 August. One year on, it is clear that the EU agri-food sector has been remarkably resilient.
In most regions, most of the affected sectors have been able to find alternative markets, either within the EU or beyond.
Whereas Russia accounted for 10 per cent of EU agri-food exports in 2013 (and the products banned amounted to 4 per cent ), the value of overall exports have increased by 5 per cent from August 2014 to May 2015, compared to the same period of the previous year (these are the most recent available figures).
Major gains have been achieved in the value of exports of agri-food products to the USA, China, Switzerland and other key Asian outlets, such as Hong Kong and South Korea, but also on most other world markets.
Among the banned products, meat has done particularly well by actually increasing exports. Exports of dairy and fruit and vegetables have gone down by 10 per cent and 12 per cent respectively, which is not surprising given the significant volumes that previously went to Russia, but the value of exports to non-EU markets (excluding Russia) has increased considerably.
While the Commission has provided support to stabilise markets in response to the ban – notably for dairy and fruit & vegetables, as well as particularly targeted measures for dairy producers in the most affected countries - all actors (the Commission, Member States, the industry, farmers) have learned to diversify exports to new markets, or, in some cases, adapt their production.
For example, the dairy sector has seen a global increase in the share of SMP production. The Commission has also provided additional support for promotion, notably on third country markets.
The Commission has intensified negotiations aimed at concluding trade agreements. For example, just this week, a new agreement with Vietnam was reached.
Moreover, the Commission has pursued talks to lift trade barriers on various third country markets.
Some successes have already been noted with, for example, the opening of the Canadian market for pears (from Belgium) and apples (from Poland) - two important markets with a global market value of more than € 300 million, the approval of Hungarian frozen beef for China, the acceptance by Japan of the EU approach for Listeria.