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Russia threatens with embargo on Norwegian fish

Russians can get a hard time finding salmon and trout for the New Year's celebrations if a ban on import from Norway comes into force.

Russian authorities want a total ban on import of fish from Norway, claiming Norwegian fish contains too much bacteria and parasites for human consumption.

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A Russian ban on import of fish from Norway will lead to a 20 percent price increase for consumers.

Russian veterinarians who recently returned from a visit to Norway are unsatisfied with the Norwegian state system of food safety control and want to stop all import of fresh fish and fish products from the country.

The Federal Service for Veterinarian and Vegetation Sanitary Supervision (Rosselkhoznadzor) wants to put a total embargo on salmon from Norway from January 1 or even earlier, Aleksey Alekseyenko from the organ says to Izvestia. According to him, Norway has a lousy system for quality control and food safety, which has allowed for low-quality fish to enter the Russian market.

Commenting on a similar threat from Russian authorities in July, a regional representative of the Norwegian Food Safety Authority said that:

“Norway exports salmon to 120 different markets, but it is only the Russian market which presents this kind of characteristics of the Norwegian fish”.

Rosselkhoznadzor and representatives from the fisheries sector in Russian are going to have a closed meeting on Friday where they will discuss a possible total embargo on fish from Norway.

A total embargo on Norwegian fish will have huge consequences forRussian fish industry, which is heavily dependent on raw material from Norway.

“That would be a blow to our production and to consumers”, says head of the Fish Union Sergey Gudkov to Izvestia. “We will take all possible measures for ensure that the limitation will not affect all sorts of fish.”

A stop on imports from Norway will lead to a deficit of raw material at processing factories and bring production down, says General Director of the Union of Fishery Managers of the North Gennady Stepakhno. Consumers will have to pay 20% more for trout and salmon if import of these species is to be banned, he says.

Norway is the largest exporter of salmon and trout to Russia, with 78 percent of the market. On second place is Chile with 7 percent.

Norway in 2012 exported 320.000 tons of fish and fish products to Russia. The export had a value of €820 million.

The new Russian boycott threats to the Norwegian fish industry are far from the first. In 2005-2006, the country introduced a full import ban on Norwegian frozen fish and a number of salmon export companies have later been blocked from entering the Russian market. Several experts believe the Russian fish import market is strictly controlled by state-supported cartels which efficiently block access of independent structures.