Russia, Turkey Normalize Relations on Everything – Except Tomatoes

All bilateral sanctions have now been lifted except for a Russian ban on Turkish tomatoes

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Russia has now eliminated all of its sanctions against Turkey, except a ban on Turkish tomatoes.

Russia's Deputy Prime Minister said last week Russia was set to lift all barriers to Turkey as agreed in principle by Erdogan and Putin earlier this month in Sochi. In the end this did not happen as the tomato ban was not lifted.

Russia dropped sanctions on every other Turkish foods, such as apples, pears, strawberries, cucumbers and poultry. It had already done away with sanctions against Turkey's tourism industry and citrus fruits last year.

Turkey in turn has eliminated its tariffs and sanctions on Russian wheat, corn and sunflower oil. Russia will also shortly lift remaining sanctions on Turkish construction firms.

The relations between the two governments are now pretty much normalized as Russia's PM Medvedev explained the ban Turkish tomatoes is not to punish Turkey but to help Russia grow its own and "preserve investments made in the sector". Before the ban Turkey consumed one half of all tomatoes consumed in Russia, which imported up to 70 percent of Turkish tomato exports. 

Ironically, right now Turkey is experiencing a tomato shortage anyway:

Meanwhile, tomatoes continue to be a news item because of their high prices in Turkey. In April, a 61% price surge in tomatoes led the Turkish market in price hikes.

If Russians are not buying them, why did tomato prices skyrocket in the domestic market?

Earlier this year, when demand was low because of Russia's ban, much of Turkey's tomato crop rotted. Now there's a shortage, and Turkey's tomato exports have grown 40%, according to Bulent Tufenkci, minister of customs and trade.

Citizens today pay $2-$4 (7-15 Turkish liras) per kilo (2.2 pounds) of tomatoes, which last year cost about a dollar. Yet they wink and smile, saying, “We are glad Russia is applying the embargo. Imagine how much we will be asked to pay for tomatoes here if we also sell to Russia.”

During the sanction years the volume of trade between Russia and Turkey fell from $31.2 billion in 2014 to just $16.8 billion in 2016. Of that figure just some 10 percent were Turkish exports to Russia.

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