Moscow ban on food imports is short-sighted, belligerent: industry minister

The federal industry minister says Moscow’s decision to close its borders to western agricultural imports is a short-sighted move that will hurt Russia most.

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — The federal industry minister says Moscow’s decision to close its borders to western agricultural imports is a short-sighted move that will hurt Russia most.

James Moore was responding to Russia’s announcement that it will halt food shipments from Canada, the United States and many other western countries for the next year.

The blockade is in retaliation for sanctions aimed at getting Russia to stop supporting rebels in Ukraine.

Moore says it showcases what he called Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “irresponsible and belligerent” approach to foreign policy.

Canadian pork producers are especially concerned as frozen pork accounts for much of the country’s agri-exports to Russia.

Moore says the potential loss of Russian markets is another reason to open up more free trade with Europe, South Korea and other countries.

At least one group isn’t so sure Russia will take the brunt of the fallout.

The Saskatchewan Manufacturing Council wants the federal government to consider special support for Canadian exporters affected by the sanctions.

Executive director Derek Lothian says Russia is a key customer.

He says the council would like Ottawa to create an emergency fund to offer short-term relief for agricultural processors, producers and related manufacturers that will be hurt.

Lothian says the federal government should also communicate closely with Canadian companies that export to Russia.

He says Russia is strategically important as a stand-alone market and as a gateway to other countries in Eastern Europe.

Lothian warns the sanctions on food products will have a ripple effect on related industries and could result in a loss of Canadian jobs.

“We are known around the world as probably the best supplier of agricultural equipment,” Lothian said Friday. “If there is no money to purchase that equipment in foreign or domestic markets, that equals jobs and investment here at home.”

Russia’s sanctions are aimed at meat, milk and dairy products, fruit and vegetables and fish from Canada, the U.S., the European Union, Australia and Norway.

Canada’s agricultural exports to Russia amounted to $563 million in 2012, mostly in frozen pork, according to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

The council represents about 40 companies in Saskatchewan.

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