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No Brie for Moscow as Cheeses Stack Up in France After Ban

August 22, 2014

Shoppers are stocking up on foods set to become scarce after Russia banned a range of products from the EU and the U.S. in retaliation for sanctions over Ukraine.

At Alexander Krupetskov’s one-window cheese store in central Moscow, sales of products from France have tripled in the past two weeks.

Shoppers are stocking up on foods set to become scarce after Russia banned a range of products from the European Union and the U.S. in retaliation for sanctions over Ukraine. The nation of 143 million has been one of the fastest-growing export markets for French cheesemakers as Moscovites acquire a taste for creamy brie, pungent camembert and spicy Roquefort.

"The very foundation of the shop has been cast into major doubt," said Krupetskov, who has four weeks of inventory left.

French cheese exports to Russia climbed 29 percent to 49.5 million euros ($66 million) last year, beating a 4.4 percent increase in total exports to 3 billion euros. Brie shipments to Russia rose 37 percent, while sales of stronger-tasting Roquefort advanced 13 percent, Eurostat trade data show.

At the Rungis food market outside Paris, a 30-hour drive west of Moscow, Nicolas Medard, deputy director of Thomas Export, says 100,000 rounds of brie headed for Russia are stranded after the ban announced on Aug. 7, with no new destination for now.

"All these cases were for Russia," Medard says, pulling a tin of Pere Toinou brie from one of 2,000 plastic-wrapped cardboard boxes. "We’ll lose about 120,000 euros."

Russia’s blacklisting of $9.5 billion of agricultural products and food from the U.S., the EU, Norway, Canada and Australia is likely to accelerate annual inflation to 8 percent in 2015, above a target of 4.5 percent, according to government officials.

Specialty Store

Thomas Export may lose around 1.3 million euros in total sales due to Russia’s ban, around 4 percent of the company’s revenue, according to Medard. Sales to Ukraine are also in decline, he said.

In addition to Roquefort, Krupetskov displays French cheeses such as Fol Epi and Saint Agur. At the specialty store, which the cheesemonger says is the first of its kind in Moscow, French varieties accounted for 60 percent of the selection, with the remainder Swiss.

Swiss exporter Intercheese AG said last week it’s been contacted by Russian buyers looking for cheeses they can no longer get from the EU, such as mozzarella, Gouda and Edam.

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