Sanctions-hit Russia resumes South Africa seafood imports

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - South Africa will resume seafood exports to Russia for the first time in almost two decades as Moscow looks elsewhere for food sources following Western sanctions over Ukraine. Russia gave 12 South African firms rights to supply canned and frozen fish from last Wednesday, according to a notice on the Russian veterinary and phytosanitary service's website. Moscow banned most Western food imports, worth $9 billion a year, in August in response to the United States and European Union's sanctions over Russia's role in Ukraine. "Since the late 1990s, this is the first time South African fish will be exported to Russia on a commercial basis," Felix Ratheb, chief executive of the Cape Town-based Sea Harvest, told Reuters. Ratheb said its first exports to Russia were expected in early 2015 and would begin at about 500 tonnes a year, worth between 25 million-40 million rand ($2 million-$3.5 million). South Africa's total fish exports in 2012 were valued at 3.5 billion rand but this figure could increase if Russia becomes a major importer, Ratheb said. South Africa’s trade and industry minister, Rob Davies, said in September that exports to Russia rose 11 percent between 2012 and 2013. (1 US dollar = 11.25 South African rand)