Russia has begun importing bananas from India after a row with Ecuador over its decision to seek US support in modernising its military.
Ecuador has agreed to send its ageing Soviet-era military hardware, which it described as “Ukrainian and Russian scrap metal”, to the US in a part exchange for some $200m (£158m) of advanced US weaponry.
The US has said the arms it gets from Ecuador will be sent to Ukraine to help the war-hit nation fight back against Russia’s invasion on the battlefield.
The deal has left Russian officials furious, with the Kremlin calling it a “reckless breach of contract”, and Moscow has responded by suspending banana imports from five Ecuadorian companies, until now the country’s biggest providers of the fruit.
Russian officials blamed pest infestation as a reason to halt trade with Ecuador and did not directly link the import decision with the US-Ecuador deal, but Moscow has a history of restricting food imports from countries with which it has disputes.
The Ecuadorian food safety agency refuted the claims about pests, saying insects were found in a negligible volume of shipments and that these posed no threat to human health or the quality of the product. Ecuador is the world’s leading banana exporter, with sales worth around $3.5bn in 2022. Around a fifth of its annual sales goes to Russia.
India now appears set to step in and take advantage of the row, the latest example of New Delhi bolstering trade with Moscow in spite of the Ukraine war. India has already snapped up huge quantities of discounted Russian oil after the EU and other Western nations imposed restrictions on its trade.
The first batch of bananas from India was already shipped in January, the Russian food safety watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor said on Tuesday.
The next batch of Indian bananas will reach Russia by the end of February, it added, saying that the “volume of exports of Indian bananas to the Russian market will increase”.
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.
India became the world’s leading importer of Russian crude oil last year, according to Kpler market data analysed by The Independent, importing an average 1.75 million barrels per day at a 140 per cent increase in 2022.