Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says she is disappointed Russia has imposed a “full embargo” on food imports from Australia, arguing Moscow should have instead moved to halt the supply of heavy weapons to separatist rebels in Ukraine.
The wide-ranging Russian sanctions apply to most foodstuffs from Western countries and are a response to limited sanctions imposed on Moscow by the West.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev told a government meeting on Thursday that "Russia is introducing a full embargo on import of beef, pork, fruit and vegetable produce, poultry, fish, cheese, milk and dairy products from the European Union, United States, Australia, Canada and Norway".
Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered government to ban or limit food imports from countries that imposed sanctions on Moscow. Photo: AFP
Australian farmers will feel the effects of the sanctions. Australian beef exports to Russia were worth $159 million in 2013, butter exports accounted for $64 million, live animals excluding seafood accounted for $55 million and meats excluding beef were worth another $48 million.
Overall, two-way trade between Australia and Russia in 2013 was worth about $1.79 billion in 2013, according to Department of Foreign Affairs statistics.
Those figures equated to $736 million in exports to the Russian federation and about $1.057 billion in imports from the Russian federation.
Ms Bishop said Australia had acted with other members of the international community to impose sanctions against Russia over its annexation of the Crimea in March and over its support for destabilising forces in Ukraine.
“The EU, US, Canada, Japan, Switzerland, New Zealand and others have also variously implemented a number of targeted sanctions, travel bans or other measures,’’ she said.
“It is disappointing that Russia has acted in a retaliatory manner rather than respond to international concern by halting the supply of heavy weapons to the separatists, including the surface-to-air missile systems believed to have been used in the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 that resulted in the tragic deaths of 38 citizens and residents of Australia.”
Ms Bishop said the Australian government would do everything in its power to minimise the impact on Australian agricultural producers.
The Russuan decision follows a decree signed by President Vladimir Putin ordering the government to ban or limit food imports from countries that imposed sanctions on Moscow for its support of rebels in eastern Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea.
"There is nothing good in sanctions and it wasn't an easy decision to take, but we had to do it," Mr Medvedev said.
The ban will last for one year, he said.
Mr Medvedev said Russia was also considering banning Western carriers from flying over Russia on flights to and from Asia - a move that would significantly swell costs and increase flight time.
He said the decision on that had not been made yet.