Also peaches, strawberries, apples, tomatoes, bell peppers, aubergines, kiwis, kakis

Not only pears get into Russia via Lithuania/Belarus

In August 2014, Russia established an import boycott for fresh fruit and vegetables from, among other places, EU countries. This embargo resulted in a sharp increase in the trade of these products into Russia via Lithuania and, shortly after that, Belarus.

Pears are an important product in this trade. However, there are also peaches and a number of other products such as strawberries and bell peppers being traded in this way. This trade flow is opaque, but an overall image becomes clear by using various available statistics. An article in the Dutch newspaper, the Volkskrant of Saturday, 17 November 2018, shows how this trade market works.

Lithuania 2017: 300.000 tons of fresh fruit and vegetables from the Netherlands
According to Eurostat, Lithuania imported 290.000 tons of fresh fruit and vegetables from the Netherlands (pg. 5). Lithuania also gets a lot of these products from Spain, Poland, Belgium, and Italy. There have been fewer imports this year, but we are still talking about large quantities.

For the Netherlands, pears are the most important product. Last year, according to Eurostat, Lithuania imported more than 60.000 tons of Dutch pears. In the same period, Lithuania also imported almost 30.000 tons of the same product from Belgium and another 20.000 tons from other countries (pg. 5).

The Netherlands 2017: 75.000 tons of fresh fruit and vegetables to Lithuania
These quantities are nowhere to be found in the Dutch export statistics (CBS/Eurostat). According to Eurostat, 75.000 tons of fresh fruit and vegetables (of which 8.000 tons were pears) were exported to Lithuania last year (pg. 16).

There were, however, 35.000 tons of pears sent to Poland. These pears then find their way to Polish export flows. Poland seemed to have exported 35.000 tons of pears to Belarus last year.

For Belgium, Eurostat does show that pears were shipped to Lithuania. In 2017, this was almost 30.000 tons. Also, according to the same source, in 2017 more than 25.000 and 23.000 tons of pears were sent from Belgium to Estonia and Latvia, respectively. In total, therefore, almost 90.000 tons (pg. 16).

Strong correspondence in the pattern of pear imports in Lithuania and Belarus
Over the last few years, Lithuania's pear import pattern has displayed an almost identical trend to that of Belarus' import of the same product. It is striking to note that trade can be seen in Lithuania's export figures but not in Belarus' import figures. At least, when it comes to the volume Belarus imported but not when it comes to the countries from where this country imports the pears.

It seems that in recent years, Belarus has imported pears from a whole range of countries. This began in 2015. They imported significant quantities from Brazil, Bosnia, Ecuador, Peru, Israel, and Egypt. In 2016, much came from Lebanon, Liberia, Cameroon, the Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Benin, the Central African Republic, and so on. In 2017, Guinea, Tanzania, Yemen, Sudan, and Syria were added (pg. 12/13).

Many other products also follow the Belarus route
According to the Belarus import statistics, it is not only pears that come from the African and Asian countries. In 2017, imports from this group of countries also involved peaches (60.000 tons), strawberries (27.000 tons), apples (19.000 tons), bell peppers (18.000 tons), tomatoes (13.000 tons), aubergines (10.000 tons), kiwis (9.000 tons), and kakis (8.500 tons). A number of other products are also included (pg. 11).

550.000, 750.000 tons or even more?
In Belarus, the total amount of imported fresh fruit and vegetables increased from 310.000 tons in 2010 to almost 2 million tons in 2015. This volume then dropped to 1,4 million tons in 2017. Apples are the most important product, followed by tomatoes, pears, and peaches (pg. 11).

According to Belarus' export stats, Russia is practically their only buyer. This source indicates that for 2017, 750.000 tons of fresh fruit and vegetables were exported to Russia from this country (pg. 11). Russian customs authorities insist on an import figure of 550.000 tons from Belarus (pg. 18/19).

Click here for the complete report.
Click here for the Volkskrant article.

For more information:
Jan Kees Boon
Fruit and Vegetable Facts 

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