Russia retaliated Thursday for sanctions over the crisis in Ukraine by banning most food imports from the West, including the U.S., Canada and Australia.
But it turns out, Russia is a small buyer of California agricultural products, only ranking 15th in the world. The biggest export from the Golden State to Russia is almonds.
Dan Sumner, director of the University of California Agricultural Issues Center, says only 3 percent of almonds shipped overseas from California go to Russia.
“That’s not a trivial market,” Sumner said, “It’s important to some exporters, but it’s not a big deal.”
The ban, announced by a somber Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev at a televised Cabinet meeting, covers all imports of meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, milk and milk products from the U.S. and Canada; all 28 EU countries, plus Norway; and Australia. It will last for one year.
"Until the last moment, we hoped that our foreign colleagues would understand that sanctions lead to a deadlock and no one needs them," Medvedev said. "But they didn't, and the situation now requires us to take retaliatory measures."
That retaliation, however, could hurt Russia as much as the West. With the inclusion of Ukraine, most of whose food products have also been banned, Russia has now cut off 55 percent of its agricultural imports — including about 95 percent of its imported milk, cheese and yogurt.
According to McClatchy’s Washington news bureau, the Blue Diamond Growers of Sacramento, California stopped selling almonds to Russia six months ago, when the country’s dispute with Ukraine turned violent.
In 2013, the U.S. sent $1.3 billion in food and agricultural goods to Russia, including about $300 million worth of poultry. Russia accounts for about a tenth of EU agricultural exports, its second-largest market after the United States.
Washington dismissed Moscow's ban as trivial to the U.S. but destructive to Russia's own population.