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Latvia bans agricultural imports from Russia, Belarus

Latvia has become the first EU country to ban imports of agricultural products from Russia and Belarus.
Latvia
Latvian farmers on the protest against agricultural imports from Russia and Belarus in February 2024. Credit: Imanta Kaziļuna
Latvia bans agricultural imports from Russia, Belarus

In a significant move, the Latvian parliament, Saeima, has approved a ban on the import of agricultural products from Russia and Belarus until at least July 2025, LSM.lv reported.

Latvia has become the first European Union (EU) member state to legislate restrictions on the use of agricultural products from Russia and Belarus. The ban will apply to agricultural and livestock products that remain in Latvia, rather than those transiting to other EU member states.

The decision comes after the rejection of an initial proposal by the opposition National Alliance deputies, which sought to impose the ban from 24 February 2023. Instead, the parliament endorsed an alternative bill prepared by the Ministry of Agriculture and pushed forward by the Saeima Budget Committee, with 69 deputies voting in favor, nine against, and none abstaining.

Earlier in February, farmers across 16 cities in Latvia took to the streets, deploying columns of agricultural machinery in a protest, demanding a ban on the import of food products from Russia and Belarus.

The amendments approved by the Saeima prohibit the importation of agricultural and feed products from Russia and Belarus, as well as the importation of such products from other third countries if they originate from Russia or Belarus. The government is tasked with specifying a list of prohibited products within 14 days of the amendments coming into effect, LSM.lv specified. The ban encompasses products intended for free circulation, processing, or final consumption within Latvia, excluding those destined for delivery to recipients in another member state with VAT exemption.

The government is also required to submit a report to the Saeima by 1 March 2025, detailing the impact of this ban on the economy and proposing any necessary changes to the regulatory framework.

Data from the Latvian Ministry of Agriculture indicates that in the first ten months of 2023, imports of Russian agricultural and feed products into Latvia amounted to 280 million euros, accounting for 12% of the total EU imports from Russia, making Latvia the second largest importer among EU member states. The majority of Latvia’s imports from Russia comprised four product groups: 44% feed (sunflower seed meal, beet pulp for feed, rapeseed meal, soybean meal, and other products), 24% cereals (mainly corn, rye, and wheat), 14% mainly peas, and 8% mainly rapeseed oil and oil residues.

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