Russia is thinking about imposing a ban on tomatoes and other vegetables imported from Morocco, the Russian Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance, known as Rosselkhoznadzor, announced today.
Russian authorities are considering a ban on vegetable imports from Morocco because of their infection with viruses, said Sergey Dankvert, the head of Rosselkhoznadzor, in an interview with Russian news agency TASS.
According to the Russian surveillance institution, some Moroccan vegetables, most-notably tomatoes, are infected with the Pepino mosaic virus.
Infection symptoms include small yellow spots on the crops, as well as mottling. The virus can be dangerous due to its high transmissibility. It can spread rapidly and unnoticed among plants.
Dankvert announced his organization is planning to hold a video conference to warn Moroccan authorities about the virus and urge them to eradicate it.
“We will warn our colleagues from Morocco that we can ban the supply of their products if they do not start working more effectively against tomato viruses,” the Russian official said.
Earlier this month, Russia imposed a ban on Azerbaijani tomatoes for the same reason.
“Any country exporting products to Russia is not immune from restrictions in the event of food safety violations,” Dankvert announced.
However, the Russian official expressed willingness to assist exporting countries to improve their infection monitoring.
For Morocco, he suggested that local agricultural authorities identify where infections are spread in order to contain viruses.
“We invite representatives [from Morocco] to work according to the principle of regionalization, that is, provide information on which regions are clean of the virus and which are not,” Dankvert said.
“Until they do, and if the situation continues to deteriorate, we will be forced to impose a ban,” he warned.
If a ban is imposed, it could heavily impact the Moroccan-Russian trade balance. According to Russia Today, Morocco is the third-largest tomato exporter to Russia, behind Azerbaijan and Turkey.
Morocco is also a major tomato exporter on a global scale. In 2019, Morocco exported 588,000 tonnes of tomatoes to other countries. The figure is the fourth-largest in the world.