Russia’s ambassador to Serbia Aleksandr Chepurin has ruled out a ban on Serbian fruit and plants despite suggestions from Russia's food safety watchdog that the non-EU country has been re-exporting Polish apples.
“Most likely, the apples are Polish,” the watchdog’s Yulia Trofimova told Russian news agency RIA this week, adding that a ban on Serbian fruit could be imposed within 10 days.
According to Serbian newspaper Vecernje Novosti, the country’s trade minister, Rasim Ljajic, said that authorities would investigate as a matter of urgency.
“We cannot allow one or two exporters to jeopardise the free-trade agreement with Russia [signed back in 2000],” he said.
Statistics from Serbia's Chamber of Commerce showed Serbian apple exports to Russia have risen by 48 per cent to 118,000 tonnes since the ban was introduced.
“Border customs controls have been stepped up, as this is the second time this year that we have suspicions about re-export,” said Ljajic.
Chepurin, Ljajic and Serbian minister of agriculture Snezana Bogosavljevic-Boskovic reportedly discussed Serbia’s newly established export control system for fruit and vegetables destined for Russia, which was set up on 2 March. Ljajic said that the two countries' ministries agreed on introducing measures to try to prevent future abuse.
The system involves the sending of scanned phytosanitary certificates prior to shipping so that the relevant Russian authorities have advance warning of a shipment's contents.