The Russian government on Thursday announced a year-long ban on food imports from the EU, US and other countries, in response to sanctions against Moscow over the Ukrainian conflict.
Such an embargo will hit the fragile Italian economy, which has slipped back into recession, and producers across the country.
According to Lorenzo Bazzana, head of economics at farmers’ association Coldiretti, all Italian regions are due to suffer.
“It’s important for all regions,” he told The Local. “The cost is difficult to determine. The total value of Italian food exports to Russia is €700 million a year. If there’s a total block, this is the cost.”
The wine trade will be most severely affected, Bazzana said, although a string of products including pasta will also fall under the ban.
For Coldiretti, the response needs to come from beyond Rome. “This isn’t only a problem for the government; it’s a problem for Europe,” Bazzana said.
“The EU needs to open diplomatic channels with Russia, to have political discourse at the international level.”
Russia spends around €2 billion on importing fruit and vegetables from Europe, making it a “primary destination” for EU traders, according to a 2012 European Commission report.
The country’s annual EU shopping list contains 98 kilotonnes of tomatoes and 535 kilotonnes of apples, the report said.
The collapse in trade represents a sharp turnaround in recent months, since popular protest in Ukraine descended into conflict between the country’s government and pro-Russian separatists.
In November Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was welcomed to Italy by Enrico Letta, then prime minister, where the pair agreed upon a €1 billion joint investment fund.
The deal was hailed as a welcome boost to both economies by the Italian premier, although critics said strengthening ties with Moscow would ultimately have a negative impact.