A trickle of imports from Russia appear to survive the government’s ‘effective ban’

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The Fertilizer Association does not know the identity of the company that was still importing from Russia in July.

Tom Lee / Stuff

The Fertilizer Association does not know the identity of the company that was still importing from Russia in July.

According to Stats NZ records, a thin trickle of imports are still arriving in New Zealand from Russia despite a tariff regime the government has described as “effectively a ban”.

New Zealand imported just under $1 million worth of goods from Russia in July, most of which was due to a fertilizer shipment worth nearly $623,000, provisional figures show. from StatsNZ.

Imports from Russia valued nearly $99 million for the whole of last year, so the latest data suggests imports have fallen by around 90%.

The government imposed a 35% tariff on imports from Russia in April to help reduce Russia’s access to foreign currency it could use to help fund its war against Ukraine.

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Trade Minister Damien O’Connor then said the tariff effectively banned imports, but was technically easier to impose than an actual ban.

He said on Monday it was good to see the impact.

“The tariff is not a ban, but it makes Russian products less competitive in the New Zealand market and sends an important message of condemnation,” he said.

“New Zealand has stood firmly against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and has taken steps to demonstrate this.”

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Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta speaks on the Russia Sanctions Bill in March.

Why New Zealand might still import fertilizer from Russia seems unclear.

Fertilizer Association chief executive Vera Power said neither of the country’s two major distributors, Ravensdown and Ballance, had imported fertilizer from Russia this year.

Power speculated that it was possible that the product could have been urea imported for industrial purposes.

There was initially some confusion after the invasion about whether fertilizer imports were banned under Russia’s sanctions, but that did not appear to be the case, she said.

Figures from Stats NZ indicate that a small amount of chemicals and machinery was also still being imported in July, along with a handful of other goods, including drinks worth $1,238.

One of the biggest potential shortcomings of the Russian sanctions regime appears to be the risk of Russian oil ending up in the unknown country, in the form of refined fuels imported from Asia.

Z Energy spokesman Kiri Shannon said it was sourcing fuel from “multiple refineries in multiple countries” after switching to an import-only supply model earlier this year.

But she said Z had received assurances from its international suppliers that they would not knowingly supply Z with products refined from sanctioned Russian crude.

“Z suppliers provide details regarding the source crudes where they operate the refinery and they must also perform their own due diligence throughout their purchasing and sourcing processes to comply with sanctions,” Shannon said.

Separate figures showed that exports to Russia have also largely come to a halt following Russia’s brutal assault on its neighbour, but some companies remain willing to engage in trade.

Relatively few exports are sanctioned, but most companies have stopped selling to Russia due to the ethics and training difficulties that banking sanctions have created to get paid.

Medical equipment, food and other goods worth a total of just under $2.5 million were exported to Russia in June, compared to around $27 million in January, before the invasion.

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