MOSCOW (Reuters) - The Russian government could consider removing Greece, Hungary and Cyprus from its ban on most Western food imports, Russian Agriculture Minister Nikolai Fyodorov was quoted as saying on Tuesday.
Russia’s ban, which should run until early August, was imposed in retaliation to Western sanctions on Russia over Moscow’s role in the Ukraine crisis.
“The list of countries has been determined by the order of the Russian president and in this context we, the government, may have proposals in light of ... relations with certain countries, (and) may have proposals on removing some countries from this list,” TASS news agency quoted Fyodorov as saying.
He added that the government had considered initiatives related to food imports from “Greece, Hungary, Cyprus”.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is due to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Wednesday. However, any agreement on removing Greece from the list of banned countries is unlikely to be reached during this visit, Fyodorov said.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters later on Tuesday that the food ban was likely to be discussed during talks with Greek officials on Wednesday.
“We see a decline in agriculture trade ... One can assume that this issue will be raised somehow, certainly,” Peskov said, when asked if Russia could agree to remove Greece from the banned countries’ list after Wednesday’s talks.
Russia banned about $9 billion worth of imports of fruit, vegetables, meat, poultry, fish and dairy from the European Union and some other countries in early August of 2014.
Fyodorov said a tax on Russian wheat exports, currently set until June 30, would not be removed ahead of schedule.
The final decision on its possible extension beyond July 1 is expected in May or June when the prospects for this year’s grain crop become clearer, he was quoted as saying.
The agriculture ministry’s forecast for a grain crop of up to 100 million tonnes this year is unchanged, Fyodorov said, adding that between 10 percent and 12 percent of winter grains were lost during winter.
Reporting by Polina Devitt and Darya Korsunskaya; Editing by Elizabeth Piper and David Evans