December 31, 2014
Russia greets 2015 with hardly any meat
The noose is tightening around Russia as food, especially meat, gets scarcer and scarcer as 2014 comes to an end.
With falling oil prices, depreciating Russian ruble and trade sanctions over the Kremlin's role in the Ukrainian crisis, it remains to be seen what 2015 will bring to the beleaguered federation.
When it rains it pours. So just as the country prepares to say goodbye to a grim year comes this disturbing news of a brewing trouble in Russia's agricultural trade with China.
Due to the declining value of the ruble, Chinese famers and exporters in northeast China are reportedly planning to stop selling their products to the country's northeastern neighbour.
As transactions are done mostly in rubles, Chinese farmers and traders near the border with Russia have been suffering losses with the continued slide in the value of the Russian currency.
Chinese analysts said a slowdown in cross-border agricultural trade between the two countries could exacerbate Russia's already bad food supply situation.
Traders from China are likely to stop taking their products to next-door neighbour Russia until the value of the ruble improves.
One of the most problematic aspects of Russia's food supply is the dwindling availability of meat, especially pork.
After banning food imports from Western countries during the last few months in retaliation for their trade sanctions against Moscow, Russia has turned to India and South Korea for pork.
The two countries are not known to be traditional meat sources for Russia. But in a sign of desperation, Russian veterinary authority Rosselkhoznadzor is reported to be planning to increase its pork imports from India by expanding its list of accredited Indian pork suppliers.
The expanded list is set to be released within the month, according to media reports.
To address its worsening meat supply problem, Russia also plans to expand its meat import choices to include kangaroo, crocodile and buffalo meats, according to media reports.
The case with South Korea is particularly interesting. Years back, Russia banned pork imports from South Korea following an outbreak of food-and-mouth disease in that country. But Rosselkhoznadzor said recently it is "ready to explore the possibility of safe pork supply from other countries," including South Korea.
This change of heart could also be seen in the authority's recent dealings with Kazakhstan. The former Soviet republic, which had been battling FMD like the Koreans, recently announced that Russia had lifted its ban on Kazakh meat products.
To paraphrase a popular saying, there are no permanent food sources, only permanent needs.