Russia goes bananas over Ecuador’s plans to ship its Soviet-era missile stocks to Ukraine

MOSCOW — Russia has begun buying bananas from India and will boost such imports, its food safety watchdog said this week, after a spat with its biggest supplier Ecuador over the latter’s decision to swap Russian-made military hardware with the United States.

The first batch of bananas from India was shipped to Russia in January and the next is planned for end-February, Russian watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor said, adding that “the volume of exports of Indian bananas to the Russian market will increase.”

Rosselkhoznadzor last week suspended banana imports from five Ecuadorian companies, saying it had detected pests in their products. Ecuador’s food safety agency said on Tuesday only 0.3% of banana shipments to Russia were found to contain insects and didn’t pose a risk, according to Ecuadorian media reports.

Russia goes bananas over Ecuador's plans to ship its Soviet-era missile stocks to Ukraine

Laborers load bananas into a trishaw to transport them for sale at a wholesale fruit market in Calcutta.

Ecuador’s banana industry has issued a strong rebuttal to Russian claims that a ban on banana imports from five Ecuadorean exporters was necessary due to phytosanitary breaches.

The suspensions came after Moscow condemned a pact under which Ecuador will hand over Russian-made military hardware, dubbed by Ecuador as “Ukrainian and Russian scrap metal,” to the United States in exchange for advanced U.S. equipment worth $200 million.

The United States has said the arms from Ecuador would help Ukraine bolster its forces on the battlefield against Russia.

Russia’s trade ties with India have deepened since 2022, when Western countries imposed sanctions on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine, forcing it to seek greater trade with China, India and other non-Western countries.

Russian authorities have not explicitly linked the Indian banana import decision with the U.S.-Ecuador deal, but Moscow has a history of restricting food imports from countries with which it has disputes.

Russia was the largest importer of Ecuadorian bananas in 2022, and Ecuador supplied 20-25% of its yearly banana exports to Russia prior to the 2022 invasion, according to the FAO.

Russia’s decision to suspend imports from five major Ecuadorian exporters is because of a dispute over what Quito does with its standing military supplies.

Together, the five companies account for 25 per cent of Ecuador’s exports to Russia.

Russia said its decision was based on “the systematic detection of the Megaselia scalaris fly in consignments of Ecuadorean bananas.”

But the Ecuadorean Banana Cluster said the pest, also known as humpback fly, does not affect the country’s banana production.

Ecuador’s plant health authority Agrocalidad also refuted Russia’s claims, stating that: “Of the 13,000 banana shipments made to Russia, only 0.3 per cent have been notified of the presence of this insect, which does not represent a risk for that country.”

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.


(Editing by Bernadette Baum)