Russia turns to India for bananas amid trade tensions

Russia buys bananas from India after Ecuador military hardware spat

FILE PHOTO: A worker unloads raw bananas from a truck at a wholesale market in Kolkata, India. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri

Pramod Thomas

RUSSIA has begun buying bananas from India and will boost such imports, its food safety watchdog said, after a spat with its biggest supplier Ecuador over the latter’s decision to swap Russian-made military hardware with the US.

The first batch of bananas from India was shipped to Russia in January and the next is planned for end-February, Russian watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor said, adding that “the volume of exports of Indian bananas to the Russian market will increase.”

Rosselkhoznadzor last week suspended banana imports from five Ecuadorian companies, saying it had detected pests in their products. Ecuador’s food safety agency said on Tuesday (6) only 0.3 per cent of banana shipments to Russia were found to contain insects and didn’t pose a risk, according to Ecuadorian media reports.

The suspensions came after Moscow condemned a pact under which Ecuador will hand over Russian-made military hardware, dubbed by Ecuador as “Ukrainian and Russian scrap metal,” to the US in exchange for advanced US equipment worth $200 million.

The US has said the arms from Ecuador would help Ukraine bolster its forces on the battlefield against Russia.

Russia’s trade ties with India have deepened since 2022, when Western countries imposed sanctions on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine, forcing it to seek greater trade with China, India and other non-Western countries.

Russian authorities have not explicitly linked the Indian banana import decision with the US-Ecuador deal, but Moscow has a history of restricting food imports from countries with which it has disputes.

Russia was the largest importer of Ecuadorian bananas in 2022, and Ecuador supplied 20-25 per cent of its yearly banana exports to Russia prior to the 2022 invasion, according to the FAO.

India, a major banana producer, has also expressed interest in supplying other fruit such as mangoes, pineapples, papaya and guava to the Russian market, Rosselkhoznadzor said.