THE EUROPEAN dairy sector has welcomed the opening of an infant formula import quota by the Russian government as it shores up essential supplies to cope with the Covid-19 outbreak.

Moscow’s action on 90% demineralized whey powder followed up an announcement made in March 19 by Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin that from March 20 “for one month, all restrictions on the supply of essential goods, including customs, are cancelled”. This was followed up by a government plan allowing for the easing of sanctions-related restrictions – see and a subsequent government order listing essential goods that could enter the country freely (with no time limit on ending these rights). This initially excluded food products (it included imports of packaging, labels and price tags, however) – see – and gave  state authorities within the Russian Federation the right to “make changes to this list at the regional level based on the sanitary and epidemic situation.”

Moreover, on April 16, the Russian government announced it would until December 31 (2020) lift a ban on western exports, including those from Europe and north America, of 90% demineralized whey powder, a key baby food ingredient, which was not made in Russia until 2014, according to the European Dairy Association (EDA). “Any news on market opening, even limited in time and volumes, is as such a positive sign,” EDA secretary general Alexander Anton, who said the imports would probably be limited to 3,000 tonnes this year. See and

While the European dairy industry had even learnt to live without the Russian markets, developing overseas sales in Japan, Mexico and South Korea especially, the Russian market remains an important potential prize, said Anton: “In 2013, we exported 37,000 tonnes of EU butter and 257,000 tonnes of EU cheese to Russia, more than 30 percent of our overall butter and cheese exports at that time.”

European food producer organisation Copa-Cogeca’s secretary general Pekka Pesonen said the EU would be “pleased to return to normal trade relations with the Russian federation, one of our closest neighbours”, although he warned current government Russian policy was to make the country “a net exporter of agricultural products”.

*Additional reporting by Keith Nuthall