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Belarus threatens to ban farm imports from Ukraine

kiev / reuters / Belarus has threatened to ban imports of Ukrainian sunflower oil, corn and several other agriculture commodities after Ukraine announced it was barring imports of Belarussian milk and dairy products, Ukraine’s Farm Ministry said March 3.

The retaliatory move by Belarus marked an escalation in a regional trade war over dairy products among ex-Soviet republics which started last month when Russia, the big regional power, barred imports of cheese from Ukraine.

Ukraine announced its ban against Belarus on March 1 because of what it said were excessive amounts of veterinary drugs present in milk and milk products from the neighbouring state.

The Belarussian side during a formal meeting … issued an ultimatum that it would impose a ban on imports of Ukrainian sunoil, salt, corn, sunflower meal if the Ukrainian side refused to cancel the restrictions,” the ministry said in a statement.

Belarussian authorities had also threatened to ask its allies in a customs union — Russia and Kazakhstan — to take similar measures against Ukraine, the ministry said.

The spat between Ukraine and Belarus appeared to be part of a knock-on effect from Russia’s ban last month of cheese imports from several Ukrainian companies.

This has put pressure on the Ukrainian milk market as cheese makers have started cutting their output and, accordingly, their purchases of milk.

Belarussian dairy imports account for less than five per cent of Ukraine’s monthly home consumption — up to 1,000 tonnes per month.

Moscow expanded its black list on March 1 and has accused seven Ukrainian firms of using excessive quantities of palm oil, a cheap substitute for milk.

Russia accounted for 80 per cent of Ukrainian cheese exports last year, or $350 million in revenues.

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