Russia has agreed to begin re-importing cheese from neighbouring Ukraine after a two-month long ban, which many believed to have been politically motivated, claimed a report by Reuters on Tuesday.
In February this year, the Russian consumer watchdog Rospotrebnadzor had barred all cheese imports from Ukrainian producers in February this year after claiming that they had violated Russian milk and milk product standards, which included excessive quantities of palm oil.
Ukrainian producers though counterclaimed that their products had met all the required standards, and that the ban had only come because of lobbying from Russian dairy producers.
“Our cheeses are of good quality and cost less... our Russian colleagues had no claims. They would need to strive to produce cheese of this quality in Russian factories,” said Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov at that time, who claimed that to have personally inspected all of his nation’s cheese facilities.
According to the Kyiv Post, Russia accounted for 80 percent of Ukrainian cheese exports in 2011, or over $350 million in revenues. The two countries though have often been caught up in numerous trade disputes, particularly over the price of Russian gas that Ukraine imports.
Related: Ukraine Export, Import and Trade
"This cheese war fits within the overall theme of (Russia) putting pressure on Ukraine," said Voldymyr Fesenko, an analyst at the Ukrainian think tank Penta.
Ukraine’s refusal to join a Russia-led Customs Union – together with ex-Soviet allies Belarus and Kazakhstan – has also added to Russia’s anger towards its neighbour, noted Fesenko.
Before the conflict was resolved, Ukraine’s Partia Regionov Deputy Alexei Plotnikov had even described the “cheese war” as “public terrorism” on Russia’s part.
But the two sides appear to have come to a resolution after Ukrainian authorities finally relented into allowing Russian food safety inspectors to check all cheese exports before they would be permitted to cross the border.
Kiev and Moscow have agreed to use a laboratory in Ukraine to monitor the compliance of Ukrainian cheese quality with Russian requirements, while Ukrainian government have to also provide “guarantees” in regards to the implementation of the plan.