Russia has amended its embargo on Western food imports - enabling the flow of lactose-free dairy, protein concentrate, and other earlier banned products into Russia to recommence.
Russian Prime Minister, Dmitry Medvedev, yesterday signed a decree amending 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 - reportedly after pressure from Russian consumers.
The European Dairy Association (EDA), which represents the interests of the European dairy industry,welcomed Medvedev's loosening of the trade embargo.
"The lifting of the ban for lactose-free products and protein powders are a step forward in the current developments created by this import ban, alleviating the situation for the Russian citizens," said an EDA statement sent to DairyReporter.com.
Finnish dairy Valio, which according to Euromonitor controls a 99% share of the Russia lactose-free dairy market, announced yesterday that exports of its Eila brand lactose-free milk and its Gefilus brand lactose-free yogurt to Russia would resume "as soon as possible."
Valio, which claims to be “hardest hit of all companies in Finland” by the embargo, exported dairy products worth €242m (US$324m) to Russia in 2013.
Lactose-free milk and yogurt account for around 10% of Valio's exports to Russia in terms of volume.
“Russia’s decision to permit the import of lactose-free dairy products is extremely significant, especially from the fresh dairy products perspective,” added Tiina Mattila-Sandholm, director of fresh dairy products, Valio.
While the Russian market for lactose-free dairy is still developing, Helsinki-based Valio believes around 60m people in the country suffer from the inability to fully digest milk sugar, lactose.
“There are a large number of lactose intolerant consumers in Russia who have discovered Valio’s lactose-free products, which enable them to enjoy the fresh taste of dairy,” said Mika Koskinen, executive vice president of Russia and Eastern Markets, Valio.
“Valio is happy to be able to serve Russian consumers again,” Koskinen added.
Following Medvedev’s August 7 announcement, Valio brought to a halt the Finnish manufacture of all products destined for Russia and said steps would be take to optimize its operations in Russia.
It also acknowledged that the fall in production could lead to the layoff of up to 800 workers at plants in Finland.
With the flow of lactose-free milk and yogurt trade restored, Valio plans to reassess the aforementioned "adaptation measures set in motion in Finland and in Russia."