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Valio suspends Russia lactose-free exports over certification confusion

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By Mark Astley+

28-Aug-2014
Last updated on 28-Aug-2014 at 17:54 GMT

Four trucks of Valio lactose-free products, including its Eila brand milk, were stopped at the Russian border yesterday (Image: Valio)
Four trucks of Valio lactose-free products, including its Eila brand milk, were stopped at the Russian border yesterday (Image: Valio)

Finnish dairy Valio has suspended shipments of lactose-free milk and dairy to Russia, just one week after it was given the go-ahead to resume exports of the specialty products to the country.

Helsinki-based Valio took the decision to suspend exports of lactose-free milk and dairy products to Russia after four trucks, containing Valio lactose-free milk, yogurt, cottage cheese and sour cream, were stopped at the Russian border on Wednesday August 27.

Russian Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance (Rosselkhoznadzor) officials refused to let the convoy pass, claiming that plants manufacturing lactose-free milk for export to Russia must first be certified as producers of lactose-free products.

A shipment of the lactose-free products was, however, permitted entry into Russia on Tuesday August 26, said Valio.

“Valio plants do not have a separate certification for the manufacture of lactose-free products, such as has not been previously required,” the Finnish firm said in a statement.

Situation “unclear”

Valio added that the trucks will remain at the Russian border "until the required approval process has been completed to bring them back to Finland."

Speaking with DairyReporter.com, Pia Kontunen, communications director, Valio, said that with little clarity on the situation the company sees no point in continuing shipments.

“The situation is quite unclear to us at the moment,” said Kontunen. “We have been given no explanation and haven’t been issued with demands with regard to these certificates.”

“We have no understanding of the decision, and we have no official information on the certificates they are asking for.”

“We can’t get these four trucks across the border so why would we send more," she concluded.

Lay-offs

Last week, on August 21, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev amended his earlier August 7 ban on the import of beef, pork, poultry, fruit, vegetables, cheese and milk from the European Union (EU), US, Australia, Canada, and Norway.

Lactose-free milk, lactose-free dairy products, animal and plant-based protein concentrate powders, certain nutritional and dietary supplements, salmon, trout, and several types of vegetable were dropped from the blacklist.

Valio director of fresh dairy products, Tiina Mattila-Sandholm, last week branded Medvedev’s amendment “extremely significant.”

Following Medvedev’s initial announcement, Valio brought to a halt the Finnish manufacture of goods destined for Russia and said steps would be taken in both Finland and Russia to optimize its operations.

It announced yesterday that fixed-term contracts of 125 Finnish employees have been terminated as a direct result of the Russian embargo.

Another 50 workers will be temporarily laid off, it said.

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