Belarusian shrimps anyone? How EU food products make their way to Russia through Belarus

This paper assesses volumes of Belarus-Russia trade in Western embargoed products and specifies their fake countries of origin. Furthermore, it presents the impact of this phenomenon on Belarus-Russia relations  and developments within the Eurasian Economic Union.

Although it is an open secret that Belarus keeps its doors ajar for re-export of embargoed Western products to Russia, so far no systematic analysis of this phenomenon has been made. This paper fills this gap by giving a comprehensive review of Belarus’ trade in embargoed products since the sanctions were introduced. 

To sum up, total cost of embargoed products which had made their way to Russian market through Belarus since the introduction of a ban until 2017 is assessed to be as high as USD 2.7 billion. The figure is rather substantial, considering that total Belarus’ food exports to Russia in 2013 equaled USD 4.5 billion. The largest categories of re-exported banned food were apples and pears, apricots, peaches and nectarines as well as tomatoes and cabbage.

Trade data analysis reveals that geographical distribution of the largest fake countries of origin changes over time. In late 2014 and throughout 2015 these were Morocco, Turkey, Moldova, a number of Balkan and Latin American states. In 2016, a handful of West and Central African countries came in the spotlight. Finally, in 2017 Yemen emerged as an important fake country of origin. In addition to large-scale manipulations with product certificates, Belarus considerably underreports export of sanctioned products to Russia in general.

To download the full research paper Belarusian shrimps anyone? How EU food products make their way to Russia through Belarus

This analysis was produced within the Think Visegrad Non-V4 Fellowship programme. Think Visegrad – V4 Think Tank Platform is a network for structured dialog on issues of strategic regional importance. The network analyses key issues for the Visegrad Group, and provides recommendations to the governments of V4 countries, the annual presidencies of the group, and the International Visegrad Fund.