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EU Sanctions Against Russia Backfiring: Already Reeling From Austerity, Greek Farmers Hit Hard By Russia's Retalitory Ban on Food Imports

Truckloads of fruit left rotting after being turned away from border as farmers demand special exemption from sanctions or compensation

Farmer's Market in Athens, Greece.
Farmer's Market in Athens, Greece. (Photo by Alexander Baxevanis)

By Helena Smith
A week after Russia banned European Union food imports in a tit-for-tat move for sanctions imposed over Ukraine, Greek farmers say the embargo has already dealt a devastating blow to the country's agricultural economy.

At least 3.5m kg of peaches aloneare said to have rotted in fridge trucks turned back from Russia, and fruit producers have warned of calamity for a sector highly dependent on the market.

"Russia absorbs more than 60% of our peach exports and almost 90% of our strawberries," said Christos Yannakakis, who presides over Greece's largest regional association of growers and cooperatives.

"It is hugely important that the EU offers help otherwise our agricultural economy will collapse," he told the Guardian ahead of an emergency meeting in Brussels on Thursday to discuss the impact of the ban across the 28-nation bloc.

Fruit farmers described scenes of mayhem with hundreds of trucks carrying consignments of fruit now lining the roads of Bulgaria, Romania, Moldavia and Ukraine after being forced to return from the Russian border.

An estimated 15,000 families in the fruit-producing regions of northern Greece survive on the industry, according to producers.

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