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Nur-Sultan tightens food safety inspections on Kazakh-Russian border



A customer shops in Taraz last May. Kazakhstan has tightened phyto-sanitary regulations on imported Russian fruits and vegetables. [Aydar Ashimov]

NUR-SULTAN -- Russian fruits and vegetables meant for Kazakhstan are not meeting Kazakh food safety rules in numerous instances, AKIpress reported Monday (March 9), citing the Kazakh Agriculture Ministry.

Since the beginning of the year, Kazakh authorities inspecting Russian produce headed to Kazakhstan have found 293 violations of phyto-sanitary regulations, according to the ministry.

Tighter inspections of Russian produce date back to 2019 and are not linked to the threat of the coronavirus, added the ministry, saying it is striving to prevent the entry of agricultural pests.

"Thirty-two phyto-sanitary checkpoints were established near the border with Russia last year to disclose [food safety] violations in the import of food," the ministry said.

Kazakhstan fined the violators 10 million KZT ($26,100), it added.

Warnings about Russian protectionism

The news comes as Kazakhstan bridles at Kremlin policies that it says have hurt its economy.

Earlier in 2020, Kazakhstan announced plans to introduce protectionist measures in response to Russian policies and to unfair practices of the Russian-dominated Eurasian Economic Union (EEU).

The EEU has enabled Russian firms to conquer the Kazakh market while regularly impeding Kazakh firms from selling anything in Russia, Kazakh economists and business leaders have pointed out.

Nur-Sultan developed its trade policy planning statement while taking into account "the practice of other states in protecting domestic markets".

That new assertiveness is an apparent response to Russia's hostile actions, say observers.

Russia is using non-market mechanisms and its regulatory agencies to "eliminate competitors", said observers in Kazakhstan in February.

Denis Krivosheyev, an Almaty-based economic analyst, supports Kazakhstan's emerging policy of a "reciprocal" response to hostile actions within the EEU.

"We have retreated for a very long time, often not understanding how protectionist policies are formed," he said.

"The elimination of internal barriers and restrictions and the erection of more complex, less apparent ones -- these are the real trade wars that not only the consumer but also the manufacturer must win," he added.

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