Freshfel Europe has said that it is "alarmed" by news that the Russian Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance (Rosselkhoznadzor) will require as, of 1 November, safety certificates for several products originating from European Union (EU) member states.
In a statement, Freshfel said that it regretted the move which came after Russia and the EU agreed to hold technical discussions on Maximum Residue Level (MRL) settings, to align Russian rules with international practices.
"This decision is also contradictory to the outcome of bilateral discussions held by Russia with the authorities of several Member States," Freshfel said.
According to Rosselkhoznadzor, a safety certificate will be required as of 1 November for the following products and origins: Greece (kiwifruits, peaches, lemons, oranges and mandarins), Spain (carrots, mandarins, grapefruits, salads and oranges), Lithuania (red beets, carrots, cabbages, eggplants, apples, peaches, nectarines, mandarins, salads, sweet cherries, grapes, strawberries and tomatoes), The Netherlands (tomatoes, apples, carrots, red beets and cabbages), Hungary (sweet cherries, cherries, strawberries, cabbages and tomatoes) and Italy (peaches, nectarines, melons and grapes). Freshfel said that the measure puts in jeopardy the exports of EU quality produce values at close to 1.3m tonnes.
"EU fruit and vegetables are grown according to strict EU safety and environmental requirements and the proposed measures threaten to prevent Russian consumers from a wide range of EU quality produce," the group noted. "Freshfel would like to highlight that the current developments are resulting from inadequate MRLs set by the Russian legislation which are not in line with international practices set by CODEX. Freshfel laments the move from Russia, as at a recent meeting between the EU and Russia it was
agreed to further discuss the inadequacy of the Russian MRL with a view to bringing them into line with international best practices."
Freshfel further criticised the hastened implementation of the measures, claiming that the time scale would not allow exporters adequate time to cope with the new requirements. The result, it said, would likely be a severe disruption of trade flows and the hindrance of existing arrangements between suppliers and Russian importers.
"The measures implemented by Russia impose a burden across the whole sector on the basis of limited and questionable problems, and Freshfel considers these measures to be excessive and lacking in proportionality," the group said. "On the contrary, the new measures mean that Russian consumers will be deprived from EU quality produce by a situation which does not place the health of Russian consumers at risk.
"European exporters are used to complying with strict safety standards, and are ready to adjust their practices in order to cope with specific customer requirements demanded by the market as long as these requirements are workable, reasonable and consistent with international trade policy. The move by Russia is a negative development at a moment where Russia is in negotiations to join the WTO," Freshfel added.