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While certain Latin American poultry farmers are being widely tipped to be the main beneficiaries of the Russian embargo on food imports from the U.S., EU and several other countries, a country much closer to Russia may be set to gain substantially.
A lot is at stake. Russia is the second biggest buyer of U.S. poultry meat exports, and has become the world’s biggest consumer of EU fruit and vegetables. The embargo potentially offers great opportunities for any country not included in the Russian restrictions, and the situation in the Crimea, for some, is seen as offering a golden opportunity.
Brazilian, Argentinian and neighboring pig and poultry producers have featured in speculation as being poised to take up the trade that Russia has halted with some of its former trading partners following their embargoes in response to the Ukraine crisis.
Brazil, a member of Mercosur, has featured particularly prominently in news reports as being ready to help Russia out. But Mercosur, of which Brazil is the largest member, has been in negotiations with the EU for a trade agreement. The EU is Mercosur’s most important trading partner, accounting for more than 20 percent of its total trade in 2012 - worth EUR112 billion (US$150 billion).
Only last month, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff met the European Commission to discuss ways to increase trade between Europe and Brazil, and the need to restart free trade agreement talks with Mercosur.
In response to the Russian embargo and Brazil being thrown into the spotlight, European officials – and no doubt their equivalents in some North American countries – have been keen to talk to Brasilia about its possible course of action.
Careless action by the Brazilians, while perhaps not a recipe for disaster, could have longer-term implications.
But as said, there are other sources much closer to home for the Russians. Turkey has been in negotiations with Russia about deepening trade for some time, and is expecting a trade delegation this month to discuss forming a customs union.
It is already the fifth biggest food exporter to Russia, with sales last year worth US$1.68 billion.
The country’s exporters association says it already has received numerous inquiries from Russian importers to source fish and chicken, while the Turkish economy minister has said that Turkey “should make the most of this opportunity."
But isn’t Turkey keen to establish closer ties with Europe too?
For a long time, the country has wanted to accede to the European Union. In response to Turkey’s keenness to move in where others have been forced out, Greek officials have commented that the country’s behavior is not befitting of a country that wants EU membership.
But how accommodating has the EU been to Turkey? Discussions have gone on for decades, with some Member States saying they would need a referendum before allowing Turkey in, and negotiations, or perhaps better said, talks, were again halted last year.
Turkey has a new president who, no doubt will be keen to make his mark. Working with Russian President Vladimir Putin and boosting local industries could work very well for him, and allow the Russian leader to continue to supply the country with the imported food to which it has grown accustomed.
Of all potential suppliers, perhaps Turkey will have the least to lose and the most to gain.