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Sanctions on Russia pushed imports to 21-year low in May

·2-min read

Imports from Russia fell to their lowest point in close to 21 years in May as sanctions continued to chip away at the country’s trading relations.

The UK imported £206 million of goods from Russia in May, down 16% from £244 million in April, data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows.

It means imports were nearly 90% lower in May than in February, the last month unaffected by the Kremlin’s attack on Ukraine.

Crude oil imports dropped to £0 in May from £59 million in April and £99 million in February.

Imports of inorganic chemicals and cereals were among 19 other categories which fell to zero in May, despite seeing at least some imports the month before.

Other big drops were largely energy related; oil fell 42% between April and May to £116 million, fuel imports dropped 22% to £164 million and refined oil imports were down 19% to £116 million.

However, imports of coal, coke and briquettes rose more than fivefold to £48.6 million, the category’s highest score since January 2018.

Europe, the US and their allies imposed a series of strict sanctions on Russia after the Kremlin sent troops farther into Ukraine in late February.

It has meant drastic hits to the Russian economy.

However, Europe is still struggling to get off Russian fossil fuels, especially gas, which forms a major part of the energy mix in many European countries.

The ONS trade data also shows imports from all countries, excluding precious metals, rose 4.2%, or £2.2 billion, in May, driven by a £1.5 billion boost in EU trade.

Total exports rose £2.3 billion, or 7.4%, the ONS said.

Ana Boata, head of economic research at Allianz Trade, warned that worse is likely to come.

“While the data for the UK shows a rise in exports in May, our research suggest that trade is in recession globally, following a 1.3% contraction in the second quarter – and the UK won’t be immune,” she said.

“We predict that global trade growth will slow in 2022 from 4% to 3.5%, as port congestion returns to its worst condition since early 2021 and supply shortages created by the war in Ukraine take a 480 billion dollar (£403 billion) slice out of world trade.”

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