Agri exporters urged to target Russian market

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Apples, here on sale in St. Petersburg in 2012, are Russia’s most popular fruit. -- REUTERS

THE GOVERNMENT said exporters — especially those in the agriculture sector — should set their sights on Russia where the opportunities for expansion are promising, a trade official said.

The head of the Philippine Trade and Investment Center’s London office and commercial attache Anne Marie Kristine C. Umali said on Tuesday during the National Export Congress in Pasay City that President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s pivot to non-traditional trade partners provides exporters with opportunities in new markets. 

“I’ve been to St. Petersburg and Vladivostok. There are vast opportunities. In fact, just last night, a buyer was looking to source coconut products. There are other opportunities for fresh pineapple and banana and others,” she added.

In October, the Department of Agriculture and its Russian counterpart signed a deal involving Russian purchases of agricultural products worth $2.5 billion. Last month, the Philippines and Russia also signed eight agreements related to trade and energy.

Ms. Umali said that as of 2016 Russia is 33rd in terms of total trade with the Philippines — the 39th largest export destination and the 32nd largest source of imports.

“I’d also like to note that total trade with them is only $234 million. There’s really a lot of room to grow,” she added.

She said the opportunities are also pressing due to the sanctions regime in 2014 which restricted food imports from the US, the European Union and selected countries.

“Just to note, we [also] have a GSP — generalized system of preferences — that exporters can also take advantage of. We have a Euro-Asian economic community (EuAsEC)… [This means] zero to reduced tariff rates [for selected products],” she added.

The GSP from EuAsEC  became effective in 2010, with the Philippines being one of the 103 developing countries that are beneficiaries of the program.

Some of the products which qualify for little to no tariffs are meat and seafood, dairy products, vegetables, fruits and nuts, coffee, tea, spices, rice, sauces and condiments, medicaments, natural rubber, wood products and imitation jewelry. — Anna Gabriela A. Mogato