Russian ban on plant products to seriously affect tea,coffee:reports

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Moscow, Jan 25 (UNI) Russian ban on the imports of Indian plant products would seriously affect the imports of tea and coffee to Russia, media reports said here.

Rosselkhoznadzor, the Russian state agricultural watchdog, announced on January 23 that it would ban plant products imports from India.

''This is a very untimely move as the Year of India in Russia has just started, intending to promote bilateral trade and cultural links'', reports stressed.

The temporary ban, starting on January 28, will concern all plant and vegetable imports after a pest was found in a batch of sesame from India a few days ago.

The Khapra beetle (Trogoderma granarium) is a tiny insect 1.6 to 3.2 millimetres long. One of the world's worst stored product pests, it is omnivorous and gobbles everything that comes its way from flour to paper.

The ban in itself will be ruinous to the tea, coffee, rice and peanut markets.

Russia imported 160,000 tonnes of tea last year-40,000 tonnes of the total worth 100 million dollar from India, according to Federal Customs Service statistics. India accounts for 8,000 out of every 50,000 tonnes of raw coffee imports.

Rice and peanut imports are 50 million dollar annually. As for sesame, where the emergency started, its import is very small, about 2,000 tons equal to 3 million dollar.

Up to 95 per cent of Indian tea goes to Russian packers. Bulk tea prices will go up 20-25 per cent unless the ban is lifted soon. A similar rise is forecasted for retail prices.

Coffee prices threaten to increase by half. Russian food companies have a month's supply of raw tea and coffee; customers will be hard put if the prohibition holds into March, the report added.

Even if Russian packers and traders switch to Kenyan or Srilankan tea, prices will go up all the same because of political instability in those countries and the several months needed to get new import routes going, during which tea will acquire scarcity value.

UNI XC AK KP2141

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