End in sight to Russia’s ban on food imports?

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MEP Jim Nicholson has welcomed the news that an end could be in sight to the current Russian ban on EU food imports.

Mr Nicholson, pictured, said it was confirmed at this week’s Agricultural Council meeting that formal discussions between the EU and Russia may soon get underway with this objective in mind.

He added: “It has been confirmed that bilateral meetings took place between Russian officials and their counterparts from France and a number of individual member states at the beginning of this month.

“This has led to the expectation that a formal agreement between the EU and Russia could be reached on this crucially important issue.”

Mr Nicholson went on to confirm that the ending of Russia’s ban on EU food imports would be very welcome news for Northern Ireland’s pig and dairy sectors.

“The introduction of the import Russian ban last August was a key factor in depressing international dairy markets. Moreover, Russia is a crucially important outlet for our pig industry. It is, therefore, important that every step is taken by the EU authorities to have normal food trading relationships restored with Russia as quickly as possible.”

Turning to the specific challenges facing the EU’s dairy sector, the Ulster Unionist MEP confirmed that his report, looking at the market control and support mechanisms that should be put in place in a post milk quota era, should be published by the end of February.

“The big unknown facing policy makers is that of assessing how Europe’s dairy sector will respond, once quotas come to an end,” he stressed.

“Will we get the significant levels of expansion mooted for regions like the Republic of Ireland? But one thing is certain. And that is the fact that volatility is here to stay as a driving force on international dairy markets. My report will take account of all these factors and will include recommendations on how best farmers can respond to these fast changing circumstances.”