Podravka and Sardina are the only two Croatian companies which can now export their products to Russia.
Removal of a number of Croatian companies from the list of exporters to Russia is a new step backwards in the Croatian-Russian relations. Earlier this year, Russian authorities have denied export licenses for several Croatian food companies, which means that easy export to the huge Russian market with nearly 145 million potential consumers is currently available just for Podravka and Sardina, reports Jutarnji List on February 14, 2017.
The information has been unofficially confirmed by the Croatian Chamber of Economy, but there is still no official response from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, while the Russian Embassy in Zagreb did not want to comment on the issue. According to available information, companies which have lost their export licences are Vindija and Koka from Varaždin, Perutnina Ptuj – Pipo from Čakovec, and Belje and PIK Vrbovec which are part of the Agrokor Group.
The companies have not exported anything to Russia for at least 36 months, and now they have been banned from exporting in the future. The reason for the inactivity of Croatian companies can generally be found in the sanctions which were introduced by the European Union against Russia.
“Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Control in early 2017 conducted an audit of registered permits for export to Russia, which were issued to European companies, in accordance with the usual procedure”, explained the Croatian Chamber of Economy, adding that a similar procedure is implemented by other countries as well, including the United States. “Due to the EU sanctions against Russia, it was not possible to export animal products to Russia and many of our companies have not been able to export anything to that market”, said unofficially one of the companies which lost its export licence.
Although some claim that the decision by Moscow was not motivated by politics, it is interesting that it comes at a time of strong tensions in geopolitical relations between the West and Russia, with Croatian-Russian relations being one of the victims. “With Russians, everything is politics. Croatia is a member of the European Union and NATO, so it had to coordinate its global strategy with other states”, said a source from diplomatic circles.
Sources from the business community also admit that the geopolitical factor must not be forgotten. “Geopolitical factors are important for decisions made by Russian authorities. In addition, in Russia it is very important what kind of relationship you have with the political and financial establishment”, explained one businessperson.
When it comes to Podravka and Sardina, the companies say they are satisfied with the sales of their products in the Russian market. “Our products, canned fish, can be found all over Russia”, said Mislav Bezmalinović, director of Sardine. His company has annual revenues in Russia of around one million euros, accounting for five percent of the total company revenues. “In our strategy, Russia is a market with major potential. We are very satisfied with the sales of our goods in Russia”, said Zvonimir Mršić, CEO of Podravka.
Despite the new obstacles in the Croatian-Russian economic relations, businesspeople believe that relations between Moscow and Zagreb will gradually improve, both economically and politically. “Croatia has started a serious dialogue with Russia”, said a source in Croatian diplomatic circles. Croatian Chamber of Economy also pointed out that the Croatian side is currently in negotiations with its Russian counterparts about conditions which must be met for the renewal of export licenses for those Croatian companies which are interested for exports to Russia.