Austrian farmers look to new export markets

Austrian farmers look to new export markets
Photo: APA/dpa
Austrian farmers hit by a Russian food import ban are looking to tap into other export markets - particularly North Africa and Asia, according to Agriculture Minister Andrä Rupprechter (ÖVP).

Rupprechter said that the goal is to make up for losses incurred by the loss of agricultural exports to Russia within two years by opening up new markets, particularly in China.

Austrian farmers who produce meat, milk, cheese, fruit and vegetables, are experiencing “difficult” times, said Farmers Union President Jakob Auer.

Chamber of Agriculture President Hermann Schultes said the import ban was a “tsunami” for the European agricultural sector. He said it had come at a “sensitive transition period” and that if the EU didn’t take effective countermeasures it would “grossly interfere with the market”.

The Russian embargo, announced last month, was in retaliation for US and European sanctions over Moscow's alleged role in separatist rebellion in eastern Ukraine.

Set to last for a year, the Russian ban covers imports of meats, fruits and vegetables, fish and dairy products from the European Union, the United States, Australia, Canada and Norway.

Last year Austria exported agricultural goods worth €237.6 million to Russia, according to the Ministry of Agriculture. It also exported meat products worth €49 million.

Rupprechter said that he hopes an extraordinary meeting of EU Agriculture Ministers on Friday will increase efforts to “cushion the impact of the Russian embargo”. He said Austrian pig farmers will be particularly affected.

Agricultural representatives appealed again to people to buy domestic products when they can.

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