Russia threatens to ban flower imports from the Netherlands

© Jumana El Heloueh
Russia has recommended national EU hygiene organizations suspend certification of Dutch cut flowers destined for Russia, the country's hygiene watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor said, claiming the presence of quarantine organisms on the products.

Russia suggested European authorities deal with the Netherlands' exports to avoid a temporary ban on cut flowers delivered from the whole of EU, the watchdog said, adding that Dutch flowers are usually given certificates by the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary and Poland.

The ban could temporarily affect all flower imports from the Netherlands, according to a watchdog representative cited by TASS.

Each shipment has a certificate from these countries, which guarantees the products fully meet the health and legal requirements of Russia and the Eurasian Economic Union," the Monday statement said.

READ MORE: Russia considers banning chocolate and flowers from EU - food safety watchdog

However, according to the hygiene watchdog, over 300 recent shipments of cut flowers contained quarantine organisms, with 183 cases of the infected deliveries grown in the Netherlands.

Urgent technical consultations with European authorities should be held to address the issue, Rosselkhoznadzor said.

"There were no Rosselkhoznadzor restrictions, we only sent a request for consultation with the EU," the assistant head of Rosselkhoznadzor Alexey Alekseyenko said. He was answering a question on whether Monday’s move meant a ban on imports of the Dutch flowers, RIA reports.

Any decisions will be made after consultations where issues like delivery of flowers from the Netherlands, and their transit through other countries will be discussed, Alekseyenko said.

Rosselkhoznadzor expects talks to be held as soon as this week if the EU responds as “the EU's interest in the issue is significant.”

"If they [the competent authorities of the European Union - Ed.] do not respond, restrictive measures will follow," the official added.

The Dutch government said Monday it had not been informed about problems with the flowers, or about a ban, according to Thierry Van Es from the Netherlands Agriculture Ministry.

After the EU extended its anti-Russian sanctions in June, there have been reports Russian counter-sanctions might include bans of such popular European exports as flowers.

"Many other countries are willing to supply us flowers, and in this case our industry in the area will begin to slowly recover should there be an embargo," Alekseyenko said in an interview last month.

Deliveries of cut flowers and flower buds for bouquets from the Netherlands are a considerable part of EU exports to Russia, as last year 30,700 tons valued at $225.4 million were exported.