Russian Embargo and Swiss cheese

Komi Republic. Picture rights: Wikipedia

Insubrica Historica is spending few days holiday in the Komi Republic, at the footsteps of the European side of the Ural mountain range. Komi Republic is bigger then Germany (415k km2 to 357k km2), but with slightly less than 1 Mio. inhabitants in a decreasing tendency since 1990, mostly of them living in the capital Syktyvkar. The republic is located about 1h30 flying north of Moscow. Forests cover over 70% of the territory and swamps cover approximately 15%. The region is best known for its natural resources (gas, oil, timber, precious metals, coal, diamonds, etc) and also for its network of Gulag forced labor camps, created between 1930-1950’s under Stalin in the upper north part of this republic. Katia did her PhD research on this topic, click here if you want to access her Doctorate thesis on the Gulag in Komi Republic.

Being in vacation, we should definitely write about Vodka and not Swiss cheese. But what follows is our encounter with Swiss cheese at the local Russian supermarket. Indeed, we tried hard to find food products from Insubrica, albeit without much luck. It was easier when we came to a fairly big supermarket and got to the cheese aisle.

Emmi raclette nature waited for us. The cost of this package is of 384 Rubles which converted to Swiss Francs is CHF 6.00. We couldn’t find online the price for the same cheese package in Switzerland, but roughly it should be CHF 5.00. An overhead cost of 17%, for a portion raclette cheese being packaged in Switzerland and shipped for three thousand km’s East to Russia. Interesting.

But how come that there is Swiss cheese in Russia if there is an economic embargo? To be honest we had to google it, in order to understand it. The embargo on given food stuff – particularly milk products, is not imposed by EU but is self-imposed by Russia. However, this embargo affects only products from the EU states – plus Norway and a couple of other states. There is no mention that Switzerland is affected, indeed we managed to find in the same Supermarket also Lindt chocolate. This means also that since the embargo is in place, a wealth of surrogate products made in Russia have been created. As an example, you may find Brie, Mozzarella and Grana cheese from the Crim region, and nothing from Italy or France. We tried these Crimean products in the past, and the lasagna wasn’t that tasty. Despite the embargo on EU on cheese, you may still find Barilla.

Emmi – this particular Swiss cheese factory – itself is not new in exporting to Russia and neighboring states. At least already in 2010, Emmi had a tight cooperation with the biggest Ukrainian milk producer – Unimilk , thus selling Emmi products already at the time to Russia and Kazakhstan. Now, with the conflict in Ukraine and Crimea, is likely that this particular Swiss cheese brand found another way to export their cheese.

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