"Christiaan van Ravenswaaij (Ravex): "Our customers are afraid of disaster just as much as we are"

Fruit and vegetable exporters tensely await possible sanctions against Russia

Fruit and vegetable exporters to the Russian market are tensely awaiting the consequences of the plane crash in Ukraine and the possible sanctions it will entail. "We are constantly keeping an eye on it, following the news, as well as listening to what our own government and the foreign ministers have to say about it," explains Christiaan van Ravenswaaij, of Ravex International, which has been an exporter of fruit and vegetables to Eastern Europe and Russia for years. He acknowledges the dilemma of the “merchant and the preacher” which the sector is facing, "but our Russian customers find this disaster as terrible as we do. And they cannot do anything about it, even though everyone seems to have an opinion about it."

"Exports to Russia are traditionally quiet in this period. We are now exporting about 20% of the volume we usually ship in wintertime, mainly to supermarkets around the Moscow region, but this doesn’t help," adds Christian. He does not exclude possible sanctions. "And if they affect the meat and flower sector, then the fruit and vegetable sector will eventually also be affected. Regardless of whether or not the Russians are responsible, we would not be surprised if sanctions are coming. Threats have often been made in the past, but a time may come when they cannot be avoided. As yet, however, we remain optimistic and we will not give up hope."

According to Ad van Hamburg of Fenedex, the Association of Dutch exporters, Dutch exporters have an understanding for any possible sanctions and their consequences. "Because of what happened, and especially the aftermath, I can imagine that our members will have understanding for any measures taken. Sanctions are very likely, because there are not many other possibilities. Emotions play a role and these are still fresh after the events, also for Dutch entrepreneurs. What will happen is yet to be seen, but there is understanding about it."

"If sanctions arrive, we will deal with it as best as we can," says Herman de Boon, president of the Association of Wholesale Trade in Horticultural Products. "Fortunately, we are fairly diversified and we have many markets, but other companies may have a hard time to keep their heads above water."

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