Helgi Anton Eiríksson, CEO of Iceland Seafood International (ISI), one of the biggest exporter of Icelandic seafood, stated that Iceland must be careful in its relations with Russia in the coming days and weeks so that Russia’s importation ban on products won’t include Iceland.
“To land on the list would be a shock for us and for the interests of Iceland and our seafood companies. [Russia] is our most important market for pelagic seafood and especially for mackerel, now that we find ourselves in the middle of the mackerel season,” Helgi said in an interview with Fréttablaðið.
Russia yesterday placed a ban on the importation of various food products, including seafood, from the European Union, Norway, the U.S., Canada and Australia as a response to sanctions placed on Russia by these countries following Russia’s interference with internal affairs in Ukraine.
Icelandic Minister for Foreign Affairs Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson commented that Russia’s move does not in any way impact Iceland’s support for Ukraine.
Gunnar said that he had stated last spring that if Iceland’s position would have economic consequences, Iceland would have to live with them.
“It stands and I want to state very clearly that we cannot give a discount off international laws and human rights, the borders and democracy of states when attempts are made to change all of these things unilaterally,” the minister concluded.
According to the Russian Embassy in Reykjavík, Iceland is not included in the boycott list, but the embassy’s representatives would not comment on whether that could change. It has been announced that the list isn’t fixed.
Managing director of the Federation of Icelandic Fishing Vessel Owners (LÍÚ) Kolbeinn Árnason, said Russia and Ukraine imported Icelandic seafood for approximately ISK 30 billion (USD 261 million, EUR 195 million) last year, which is 10-12 percent of the overall export of seafood from Iceland.
Great interests are at stake and therefore there is full reason to be concerned, Kolbeinn reasoned.
Proportionally, Norway exports a similar amount of seafood to Russia, and the ban will have an immense impact on the national economy. Representatives of the Norwegian fishing industry are concerned that the market will collapse.