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10 Aug, 2014 21:19

Poland asks US to buy apples banned by Russia

Poland asks US to buy apples banned by Russia

Poland has asked the US to purchase the country's apples after Moscow banned all food imports from the EU, the US, and other countries who imposed sanctions on Russia over the Ukraine crisis.

Prior to the full embargo on food exports from the West, Russia’s agricultural watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor banned the import of practically all fruits and vegetables from Poland, citing a breach of food safety standards.

"We are interested in a quick decision because the situation is extraordinary," said Poland's ambassador to Washington, Ryszard Schnepf, as quoted by Polish press agency PAP.

He added that he had met with Michael Scuse, a senior official in the US Department of Agriculture, and discussed the opening of the US market to Polish apple producers.

"He told us to begin the procedure,” he said, adding that the next meeting with US agricultural officials is planned for August 18.

Rosselkhoznadzor banned Polish fruits and vegetables from August, saying that they pose a threat to public health due to an excessive amount of pesticide residue levels and the presence of nitrates.

Read more: Russia’s food import ban sparks online frenzy in Poland

Agriculture is a crucial part of the Polish economy, as about 60 percent of Poland's territory is agricultural land. Poland is Europe’s largest producer of apples and the biggest supplier to the Russian market, accounting for 50 percent of apple imports. According to Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Poland is the fifth largest producer of apples in the world. China is in first place, followed by the US.

On Thursday, the restriction on Polish imports was followed by Moscow’s full ban of EU, US, Australian, Canadian, and Norwegian food exports to Russia. The ban was imposed for one year and came in response to Western sanctions imposed on Russia over the Ukraine crisis.

"There is a greater understanding on account of the fact that the United States has also been hit by Russian sanctions," Schnepf said.

The US restricts the import of fresh fruit and vegetables from the EU, with a few exceptions – including Polish exports of peppers and broccoli, as well as apples and pears from Italy, PAP reported.

Poland is one of the key European allies of the United States, being part of both NATO and the EU. Warsaw has supported the US in many initiatives, including the Global War on Terror, Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, and coalition efforts in Iraq.

In 2012, the US deployed a full-time aviation detachment at Łask Air Base, which marked the first continuous presence of US troops in Poland. Poland also plays a critical role in the European Phased Adaptive Approach to NATO missile defense, under which the US plans to deploy a missile defense system to Poland in 2018. Earlier this year, the US increased its military presence in Poland based on claims that Russia plans to intervene and is amassing troops at the border.

According to the Pew Research Center, 79 percent of Poles viewed the US favorably in 2002, and 67 percent in 2013.