Food of the Czars Made in Italy as Putin Spares Caviar From Ban
Vladimir Putin is determined to make European exporters pay for the West’s opposition to his Ukraine policy. Up to a point.
When Russia imposed a trade embargo on imported foods in August last year, caviar was spared from the list, helping an Italian sturgeon farm to infiltrate Putin’s homeland. From a standing start in 2012, Agroittica Lombarda SpA, Europe’s biggest producer of the “food of the Czars,” now counts Russia as the most important country destination for its luxury product.
But there’s a trick. “We’ve had to put a Russian brand name on the tin, and we don’t put ‘Made in Italy’ on it,” said Lelio Mondella, managing director of Agroittica.
“The Russians want to eat Russian caviar. I understand that. Who would buy mozzarella cheese made in Russia?” Mondella said as he sampled four kinds of his Calvisius caviar in 10 gram (0.35 ounce) tins priced from €20 euros to €80 apiece.
Russia’s $1.1 trillion economy contracted the most since 2009 in the second quarter amid an oil and currency rout exacerbated by tit-for-tat sanctions against the European Union and the US that prompted a ban on imports from French cheese to Polish cabbage. Caviar was exempted since Russia already had to look abroad for the delicacy after low stocks led to a prohibition on wild sturgeon fishing in the Caspian Sea.
"Rich and powerful Russians can’t do without it, so they have made an exception," Mondella said.
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