Syria has announced plan to export more than 700,000 tons of citrus fruits to Russia after Moscow banned imports of Turkish fruit and vegetables in response to the downing of its bomber plane over Syria.
A senior Syrian government official said on Tuesday that the measure aims to “fill the gap” left by Moscow’s ban on Turkish agricultural products, AFP reported.
“We are preparing some 700,000 tons of citrus, mostly oranges, to send to Russian markets,” said Fares Chehabi, head of Syria’s Chamber of Industry.
The official added that the “first shipment has already left for Russia,” saying that other Syrian goods, such as textile products, would be also sent to Russia.
Meanwhile, Samer Debes, head of the Damascus Chamber of Industry, told Syria’s state news agency, SANA, that the consignment provided “a real opportunity” for Syrian goods to be present in the Russian market.
The Syrian official added that his country’s businessmen were getting ready for an upcoming visit to Moscow to “examine the chances of cooperation after the sanctions that Moscow imposed on Ankara.”
Debes noted that Russia’s sanctions against Turkey “create an important gap and suddenly a real opportunity for Syrian products.”
According to the Syrian Agriculture Ministry, the country produced a total of 1.05 million tons of citrus products during the 2014-2015 season.
Syria’s citrus is grown mostly in Latakia and Tartus provinces along the Mediterranean coast.
The development came after Russia decided last week to expand its sanctions against Turkey in response to the downing of its bomber plane by Turkish fighter jets over Syria, restricting imports of Turkish fruit and vegetables.
The new penalties, ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin, were announced at a meeting chaired by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and also ban Turkish construction firms from signing new contracts in Russia while imposing road restrictions on trade with Turkey.
According to state news agency, RIA Novosti, Medvedev called for sanctions to be “most effective for the Turkish side but minimally affecting our economic interests”.
Moscow has already announced an end to visa-free travel for Turks in Russia and to extensions of labor contracts for Turks working in the country.
Russia is Turkey’s ninth largest export market at approximately USD 6 billion. Most of the trade involves food, consumer goods and textile products.
Turkey was the main beneficiary of the ban that Russia imposed on importing food from the European Union and the United States after Moscow came under sanctions by Washington and Brussels over its alleged role in the Ukraine crisis.
Russian officials say they plan to replace produce imports from Turkey with those from Central Asian countries, Iran and Morocco.
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