Although it's not illegal to send food products to Russia, many NZ exporters are taking a stand against the invasion of Ukraine and boycotting the market. However, halting shipments to former clients can be quite complex and will impact businesses quite a lot.
In March, fruit and vegetable exporter Freshco had seven large containers full of apples being loaded onto a vessel in Napier. The vessel was bound for Russia. Halfway through loading, Freshco partner John Mangan heard the news that New Zealand is imposing sanctions on Russia over the war in Ukraine. "Three of [the containers] were already on the vessel and going, and four we managed to get off," Mangan says. "Since then, we've stopped completely."
Apples and pears are New Zealand's second biggest export to Russia. In 2020, they were worth $19.8 million, a far cry less than our butter exports, valued at $115 million. Mangan says Freshco's Russian trade was worth up to $6 million, but the economic environment created by Russia's war on Ukraine has made continuing business a tough sell.
It's three months now since the war began and countries around the world started imposing sanctions worth billions of dollars. Companies from McDonalds to Fonterra have started pulling out of the country in self-imposed boycotts. But not everyone has made that call.
New Zealand's largest organic apple grower, Bostock, is continuing to send fruit to Russia. Owner John Bostock says the company condemns the Putin regime but backs the supply of “humanitarian food shipments" into Russia and Ukraine.