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ST PETERSBURG, Russia, June 1 (Reuters) - Russia is open to discussing partially lifting its ban on tomato imports from Turkey provided the move does not harm its own farmers or investors, Agriculture Minister Alexander Tkachev told Reuters on Thursday.
In a bid to resolve a trade row with Russia, Ankara has proposed that Moscow lift a ban on imported Turkish tomatoes during periods when Russian farmers are unable to grow their own.
“It can be discussed but we should have clear and justified evidence that it will not affect our market and not put off Russian investors,” Tkachev said on the sidelines of the St Petersburg International Economic Forum.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich, who is in charge of the agriculture sector in the government, told reporters earlier on Thursday that Turkey’s proposal was being considered already.
Tkachev said, however, that he remained a proponent of keeping the ban on Turkish tomatoes for the next few years to support Russia’s domestic production.
It would take five years to develop sufficient domestic supply to fulfil Russian consumption, he said.
The Russian market is worth several hundred million dollars a year for Turkey. Moscow, however, banned Turkish tomato imports following the downing of a Russian jet near the Syrian border by Turkey in 2015.
In response, Ankara imposed prohibitively high import tariffs on Russian wheat in mid-March. It resumed purchases after the presidents of the two countries agreed to lift some restrictions in early May. (Reporting by Katya Golubkova; additional reporting by Polina Nikolskaya; writing by Polina Devitt; editing by Alexander Winning and Jason Neely)