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Friday 18.08.2017 | Name days: Liene, Helēna, Elena, Ellena, Liena

Lithuanian-Russian milk war may come to Latvia

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUMonday, October 7 could mark the beginning of milk war between Lithuania and Russia. Moscow’s Food and Veterinary Service has been blaming Lithuania for all sort of violations since August 2013, but actual threats to cease the supply of milk to Russia have been voiced only recently.

This situation may also affect Latvia as well, Nekā personīga (Nothing personal) programme of TV3 reports.

Lithuania has conflicts with Russia on several fronts. Lithuania has presidency over the EU at the moment. Brussels still hopes to sign the Eastern Partnership Treaty during the Vilnius Summit. This document will ease trade relations with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. This plan does not comply with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s plan – restore Russia’s influence over former Soviet territories and create the Eurasian Union.

This conflict is tied to the gas conflict – recently the European Commission had announced its readiness to sue Gazprom for its unfair price policy. This was stated by the Commissioner of Competition who was in Vilnius this week. The EC presented accusations against Gazprom largely thanks to Lithuania. In the meantime, Gazprom’s unfair policy is being investigation by Lithuania’s competition council. Lithuania is also busy building its LNG terminal.

Several countries of the Eastern Partnership Treaty have suffered from Russia’s anger in the last couple of months – Russia is boycotting Moldova’s wines, Ukraine’s chocolates, Lithuania’s bovine meat. All decisions are in the hands of one man – Russia’s state Food and Veterinary Service head Gennady Onischenko.

“Onischenko often come up with announcements regarding some sanctions after Kremlin decides to boycott some country. This was Russia’s way of punishing Moldova for their announcement of plans to sign the treaty with EU,” – researcher of Eastern European Policy Centre Rinalds Gulbis says.

Russia’s sanitary service’s announcements in relation to Lithuania have been largely varied: first there was an announcement that bacterial infection was found in Lithuanian dairy product; then it was announced that the contents do not comply with tags; Russia accused Lithuania of using milk powder. The most recent announcement – there are dangerous antibiotics in those products. Lithuania has yet to receive any official criticism of its products. Lithuania’s food service director has read about Russia’s accusations only in the media.

“We only find out about such things from the press. We have not received any official documents or warnings. I cannot say for sure what we are prohibited or if someone wants to prohibit anything at all,” – says Lithuania’s Food Service manager Jonias Miļius.

If Lithuania ceases to supply Russia with milk, this could affect Latvia as well. Latvian farmers sell 700 tons of milk to Lithuania every day. This is 20% of Latvia’s dairy market. Milk procurement prices will like grow following a slump in demand for milk.

The second important factor to consider for Latvia and Lithuania is problems along the border. This September, Russian border guard have been thoroughly inspecting freight from Lithuania. This also adversely affects Latvia.

Finance Minister Andris Vilks says Latvia’s relations with Russia are much better than those of Lithuania with Russia. Because of this, he believes, a full border blockade is impossible. Latvia’s Transport Minister is not so optimistic.

“We’ve had similar problems a couple of years ago. Back then problems were related to border crossing. We are carefully following all development s to make sure all rules are being followed,” – says Transport minister Anrijs Matīss.

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