Russia, Turkey agree on everything except tomatoes
SOCHI / ISTANBULRussia has agreed to lift all sanctions imposed on imported items from Turkey except tomatoes.
The leaders of the two countries met at a meeting in Sochi on May 3, which comes at a time when the price of the vegetable has skyrocketed.
Russian leader Vladimir Putin said Russia’s embargo on the import of tomatoes from Turkey and its visa restrictions on Turkish nationals will remain in place for the time being. He did not provide a date of when the two restrictions would be lifted. “Now we can say with certainty that the recovery period in Russo-Turkish relations is over,” he said.
“Of course, we want Turkish tomatoes on the Russian market. We suggest it because they are cheap and delicious,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said, adding that there would be a transition process, and “perhaps interim solutions could be found in the meantime.”
Moscow imposed sanctions on Jan. 1, 2016, following the downing of a Russian war plane for violating Turkish air space. The incident touched off months of diplomatic tension that began abating with a normalization process last summer.
The initial ban included imports of tomatoes, oranges, apples, apricots, cabbages, salt, broccoli, mandarin oranges, cucumbers, pears, peaches, plums, strawberries, onions, carnations and poultry.
Thanks to the normalization of relations, the ban on oranges, mandarin oranges, apricots, peaches and plums was lifted on Oct. 9, 2016, by a government decision.
But state-run Anadolu Agency calculated the annual loss of the items remaining on the ban list at $425 million as of March. In 2015, Turkey sold Russia nearly $259 million worth of tomatoes.
Turkish Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci joked during a Forum Istanbul event on March 4 that the debate over tomatoes resulted in the vegetables becoming a premium and led to a record in its price, which had an impact on the 11.9 percent year-on-year inflation hike in April.
The price of tomatoes hiked some 70 percent in street markets in recent weeks, exceeding 10 Turkish Liras ($2.8) per kilogram.
Tomatoes, a must ingredient in Turkish cuisine, will get cheaper due to seasonal reasons, experts say.
“Jokes aside, the sensitivity of Russia over tomatoes will end gradually and the ban will be lifted,” Zeybekci said.
A new formula in tomato sales to Russia could be introduced soon, he said, adding that Russia might choose to protect its economy by imposing tariffs on tomato imports in the coming seasons.