KYIV -- Ukraine’s exports to Iran will easily top $1 billion this year, according to figures released around the Iran Export Fair, which runs here through Friday.
After sanctions on trade with Iran were lifted in January 2016, Ukraine’s two-way trade with Iran responded immediately, jumping by almost one third.
For the first five months of this year, Ukraine’s sales to Iran are up 78 percent. As Ukrainian grain producers scour the world for new markets, food sales alone to Iran are to top $1 billion this year, according to Vasyl Antonenko, bilateral trade specialist for Ukraine’s Agrarian Policy and Food Ministry.
Last year, trade between Ukraine and Iran totaled $745 million. Traditionally, Ukraine has surplus in the two-way trade.
Iran is now the 8th largest importer of food from Ukraine, Gennadiy Chyzhykov, president of Ukraine’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Both men spoke Monday afternoon at the Ukrainian-Iranian Business Forum.
The Forum preceded Tuesday’s opening of the Iran Export Fair at Kyiv’s International Exhibition Center, a 10-minute walk from Livoberezhna metro station, on the left bank. The fair is designed to help right the trade balance.
“We want to enter the Ukrainian market,” said Sanaz Esfandiari, from Pars Rastak, the Tehran organizing company.
This year, there are 63 Iranian exhibition stands, up 10 percent from last year’s fair, the first in Kyiv. Expanding from Tehran, this year’s fair has exhibitors from four provinces: Alborz, Isfahan, Khuzestan, and Qazvin. Five times a week, Ukrainian International Airlines makes the four-hour flight from Kyiv to Tehran.
Products range from pistachio nuts to living room furniture. The main obstacles to trade are banking barriers and the logistics of moving products 3,000 km from Tehran to Kyiv.
“The logistics are very costly,” Esfandiari said when asked about the ferry/rail/road route from Iran through Armenia and Georgia and then across the Black Sea, to Odesa.
In recent weeks, Ukrainian and Georgian transportation authorities have announced investments that should make the Odesa-Georgia section cheaper and faster. Some financing is coming from Beijing, which considers the route a lesser branch of its east-west Silk Road.
On the financial front, Esfandiari said: “The main sanctions are removed, but new banking rules appear every day.”
From the Ukrainian side, several companies rented stands to display their products before the 153 Iranian business men and women who have come to Kyiv.
At the Ternopil region stand, Anatoli Petrovich Krinitsky, manager of Rosokhach, a meat company, showed a sample of the boxes he uses for exporting his boneless frozen beef. It was prominently stamped ‘Halal,’ informing consumers that the cows have been slaughtered according to Islamic law.
“We sell to Azerbaijan, Egypt, and Iraq – why not Iran?” asked Krinitsky.
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