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Russia Bans Import of Flowers From the Netherlands

  • Apparently the ban is temporary. A shot accross the bow to the Dutch?
  • Import of cut flowers is a mayor business amounting to Dutch-Russian trade of $200-300 million
  • Dutch agriculture was already greatly hurt by the Russian food import ban

MOSCOW, July 27 (TASS) - Russia has initiated a ban on the import of cut flowers from the Netherlands due to the presence of quarantine organisms on the products, Russia's Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance (Rosselkhoznadzor) said in a statement on Monday.

Flower Ban

"Rosselkhoznadzor suggested that the National Organization for Plant Protection of the European Union to suspend all phytosanitary certification of Dutch cut flowers for delivery to Russia," - said in a release.

From a judicial point of view, Rosselkhoznadzor only asked the competent services of the EU to stop the certification of flowers from the Netherlands for export to Russia, which should lead to a voluntary halt of imports to Russia from the EU itself, explained Yulia Trofimova, a press service representative. However, the initiative for the constraints came from the Russian side, she said.

Without Transit, for Now

The assistant of Rosselkhoznadzor Head, Alexei Alekseenko said that the full-time restrictions on the supply of flowers from the Netherlands is a temporary measure. The ban will either be dismissed or extended after technical consultations with "competent authorities in European Union on the problem at hand," that the Russian authorities intend to carry out in the near future, the surveillance service said. While the ban applies only to the flowers produced in the Netherlands, it does not affect the flower transit, Alekseenko said.

"Only during the last three months, during the quarantine phytosanitary control of cut flowers that arrived in Russia from the European Union, we found 324 batches contaminated with western flower thrips, white rust chrysanthemum, tobacco whitefly and US miner clover. Out of those batches, in 183 cases, the cut flowers came from the Netherlands, and that accounted for 58% of the total number of identified contaminated batches of cut flowers received from all countries of the European Union," Rosselkhoznadzor said in a statement on Monday.

Flower Market Collapse

Earlier TASS quoted the deputy head of the Rosselkhoznadzor Yulia Shvabauskene, who said that the service is considering a ban on re-export of plant products, including flowers, to Russia, through the Netherlands. According to the public official, the issue at hand was on European Union re-export certificates, which are needed for all flowers from Holland and those that are delivered through Holland, like those from Ecuador, to Russia.

TASS asked experts last week on the ramifications of the flower ban, and most said that it would negatively affect the fragile flower market. It is their opinion that Russia cannot supply enough flowers for itself, since the share of the Russian plant market does not exceed 10%-15%, while an attempt to increase direct supplies from other countries will increase prices and as a result of "bring down" the market.

"If you completely switch to direct supplies, from other countries, it will inevitably impact the prices that could rise by 3-4-fold, compared to current prices. That would entail not only a rise in price of retail, but the collapse of the market as many players simply would not withstand such a load," said Talia Akhmetova of floral company

According to Akhmetova, the share of the European cut flower in Russian retail is about a third. This is primarily the Netherlands themselves and Italy, France and Spain. Russia dependent on European imports for planting materials much more, about 90% of flowers grown in Russia are from European seedlings and bulbs, she said.

Ecuador, Colombia, Kenya also directly deliver flowers to Russia. However, in general they grow and sell roses, so it would be impossible to completely replace the flower market with them. Additionally, these countries import flowers to Russia not directly, but through a hub in the Netherlands, where the world's largest flower auctions are held, said Akhmetova.

She added that the logistics scheme was put together a long time ago and is profitable for manufacturers and suppliers.

Russian Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance (Rosselkhoznadzor) has previously offered other countries such as Columbia, to use to supply flowers to Russia, bypassing the Netherlands.

According to Director General of the BPF Group flower company, Vitaly Schmalz, 5-7 years will be necessary to restore the Russian floral market to the current level, after the ban on the import of European ornamental plant crops, and that is with the availability of what he called "cheap" money. Schmalz estimates that in the case of the embargo, the Russian flower market could be reduced by 80%.

As TASS previously reported on July 21, Rosselkhoznadzor had once again mentioned the possibility to ban the delivery of flowers from the Netherlands to Russia due to the infection of quarantine organisms.

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