Veterinary Board and entrepreneurs think that goods of three companies again allowed into Russian customs union sends good signal.
At the end of last week Rosselhoznadzor, the Russian body for veterinary and phytosanitary supervision, removed temporary import ban in force since January 9th from Estonian fish processors DGM Shipping and Eesti Traalpüügi Ühistu, and from dairy industry Tere. With no good news as yet for remaining nine companies under the same restrictions since end of last year, the decision is seen as quite nice opening.
According to Veterinary and Food Board director-general Ago Pärtel, he hasn’t a clue what caused these three firms to be chosen; the important thing being that, by the step, the customs union approved all guarantees granted by Estonian state. «Everybody’s glad,» he said. «If they nicely swallowed the principle of our reply, and didn’t contest the action plan proposed by us, things can only get better.»
Waiting for inspector
The companies, again allowed to import into the custom union, immediately get busy. Of Eesti Traalpüügi Ühistu production, a bit under a half went to Russia prior to ban; within a few days, they hope to send the first loads. According to CEO Mauno Leppik, they did cut production levels for a while, because of the ban.
Ilja Gorohhov, development director for DGM Shipping importing a whopping 90 percent into Russia, said they kept on fishing and the goods have been waiting for its time, in freezers. Yesterday, the man had not gotten into the nitty-gritty of Rosselhoznadzor’s decision, thus not knowing if they can import the fish caught meanwhile into the customs union, or is only fish processed after lift of ban good to go.
Tere dairy chief Oliver Kruuda said they’d get the first batch produced tomorrow, full volume production to be restored within a couple of weeks. According to him, the temporary import restriction was due to neglect by themselves.
«The shortcomings that we fixed within three weeks, we could have fixed these before,» admitted Mr Kruuda. «Still, we had to take a little whipping, and then we got going.»
With mere seven percent of Tere production going to Russia, the ban happened to coincide with crude milk price rise on global market, it did cause them trouble. What exactly the loss, Mr Kruuda wasn’t willing to disclose.
Still, the Friday announcement by Rosselhoznadzor did have its bitter pills. Regarding fish processors Geirom and Saare Fishexport, it was said that as these use raw material from other countries, they are not allowed to continue imports before new inspection-trip by Eastern neighbours. According to Mr Pärtel, the trips so far have happened once every two-three years, so they haven’t high hopes to restore export to Russia.
Geirom’s chief Sergei Geiko was more optimistic. According to him, the company is currently having major repair; by Rosselhoznadzor, they have been promised that once the repair is over, imports can continue.
«Over there, things are constantly changing. In a month, a letter may come saying they did open up imports to us as well,» said the Saare Fishexport CEO Ivar Kiil. «If, tomorrow, the European Union imposes some new sanctions on Russia, maybe Russia will close its border altogether.»
Hope arises in others
At the end of last year, eleven Estonian companies got import ban. Meaning: nothing has been said regarding six.
According to chief executive of the banned E-Piim, Jaanus Murakas, opening up of the initial companies still comes as a very positive signal.
«Most important that some companies are starting to loosen up. That’s the usual with Russian inspections, as they go one company at a time,» he explained. «As the precepts issued to companies were either similar or the same, this gives us hope that the others also have reason to believe the temporary ban will be lifted.»
The decision, at least, provides basis to think the broad import ban on Estonian food producers was not just a political order, as many feared it to be. The Russian customs union has also banned imports from several other European countries; and for Latvia and Lithuania, for instance, visits by inspectors are still pending.