Russia turns to India for Bananas amid Ecuador dispute

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Russia has turned to India for its banana imports and plans to increase such shipments, announced the country’s food safety watchdog on Tuesday. This decision comes in the wake of a disagreement with Ecuador, its largest banana supplier, over Ecuador’s decision to exchange Russian-made military equipment with the United States.

According to the Russian watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor, the first batch of Indian bananas was shipped to Russia in January, with the next shipment scheduled for the end of February. The agency stated that “the volume of exports of Indian bananas to the Russian market will increase.” This move follows Rosselkhoznadzor’s recent suspension of banana imports from five Ecuadorian companies due to the detection of pests in their products. However, Ecuador’s food safety agency countered these claims, stating that only 0.3% of banana shipments to Russia contained insects, posing no risk, as reported by Ecuadorian media.

The suspension of banana imports from Ecuador coincides with Moscow’s criticism of a deal in which Ecuador will transfer Russian-made military hardware, referred to by Ecuador as “Ukrainian and Russian scrap metal,” to the United States in exchange for advanced U.S. equipment worth $200 million. The United States has indicated that the arms from Ecuador will aid Ukraine in strengthening its forces against Russia on the battlefield.

Russia’s trade relations with India have strengthened since 2022, when Western countries imposed sanctions on Moscow following its invasion of Ukraine. These sanctions prompted Russia to seek increased trade with China, India, and other non-Western countries.

Although Russian authorities have not explicitly linked the decision to import Indian bananas with the U.S.-Ecuador deal, Moscow has a history of limiting food imports from countries with which it has disputes. In 2022, Russia was the largest importer of Ecuadorian bananas, and Ecuador supplied 20-25% of its annual banana exports to Russia before the 2022 invasion, according to the FAO.

India, a major banana producer, has expressed interest in supplying other fruits such as mangoes, pineapples, papayas, and guavas to the Russian market, as stated by Rosselkhoznadzor. This diversification of fruit imports highlights Russia’s efforts to reduce its dependence on traditional suppliers and explore new partnerships amidst geopolitical tensions.

(Source: The Independant | FruitNet | Hindustan Times)

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