Wanna sell parmesan to Russia? First, you’ve gotta recognize Crimea, country’s chief cheesemaker tells Italian ambassador

Italy must recognize Crimea as Russia if it wants to be allowed to export parmesan into the country. That’s according to the head of the Cheese Industry Union, who responded to Rome’s plea to Moscow for a change in the law.

Last week, the Italian ambassador to Russia, Pasquale Terracciano, insisted that Moscow should make changes to the list of counter-sanctions imposed by the Kremlin in response to the European Union’s measures, following what the bloc calls the annexation of Crimea.

“We hope that at some point we will be able to overcome the system of sanctions and counter-sanctions, but, of course, it is necessary for the political conditions to change,” Terracciano told Forbes on Friday. “All these years, I insisted that we should make adjustments to the list of counter-sanctions.”

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In particular, Terracciano noted that Parmesan cheese was mistakenly banned in the package of measures against the import of produce, despite it being lactose-free and therefore not fresh cheese.

In response, Oleg Sirota, the cheesemaker union head, stated that Russia has improved its parmesan-making since the imposition of counter-sanctions, and any change in the laws would make a lot of people go bankrupt. In his opinion, Italy is overproducing cheese and wants to dump it on Russia.

“They will bring down our market the way they brought down the Soviet poultry farms and the chicken industry in the 1990s,” he said.

However, if Rome really wants to get into the Russian market, there is something they could do, says Sirota.

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“Let them recognize Crimea,” he suggested. “Lift sanctions from Crimea and all its companies.”

Last Friday, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova responded to Terracciano’s appeal by revealing her love for domestically-made dairy products.

“Without prejudice to the tender feelings I have for my Italian colleagues, I would like to say that I like Russian cheeses,” she noted. “Sirota makes wonderful cheeses.”

Crimea was re-absorbed into Russia in March 2014, following a referendum. The vote is not recognized by most of the world, which views Crimea as an illegally occupied Ukrainian peninsula.

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