TALLINN - The Russian Veterinary and Plant Control Service announced last week that it was banning the import of all Estonian imports subject to plant control as of Aug. 13. The ban is expected to affect companies that deal in cocoa beans, coffee and flour, though the government has already undertaken efforts to have the ban lifted.
"Companies mediating to Russia cocoa nuts, coffee and flour are in the worst trouble at the moment," Riina Koidumaa, head of the Estonian Plant Protection Inspectorate's plant division, told the Baltic News Service.
"The proportion of Estonia's own plant products is smaller," she added.
According to information, about 100 consignments of such products are exported to Russia monthly.
The Agriculture Ministry stated that talks over lifting the ban were already under way, though as The Baltic Times went to press no information was available as to whether they were successful.
The plant protection inspectorate carried out an investigation based upon information that led to the bank, but it failed to establish any violation on the part of Estonian exporters.
The government forwarded an official reply to the relevant Russian authority and has informed the European Commission of the incident.
However, the decision to ban the import of products of plant origin is not in the commission's competence and therefore the latter would not be issuing a response to Estonia's request, a commission official said.
"As the matter concerns the export of plant products, it is what is known as a bilateral issue, and the European Commission is not involved in it," Pille Vaher, spokeswoman for the Estonian representation of the EU executive, said.
Vaher said the European Commission had not been given powers to deal with questions concerning the export of plant products into third countries.
"Unfortunately, the commission cannot take a position in this matter," she stated.
Meanwhile, Toivo Promm, CEO of the stevedore firm KS Stivideerimise AS, complained about the ban.
"Last night we received information from our client, Vigolin, as if the problem had been solved, but we have no confirmation to it yet," Promm said, adding that Vigolin, which shipped cocoa beans and grain to Russia, turned to Russian officials via the Estonian Embassy in Moscow to get explanations.
"Several ships are standing idle because of the ban, but no one can say whether it's for political or technical reasons," Promm said.
Of the major exporters to Russia, the ban affects Paulig Baltic, Contimer and Vigolin.