UK food security will be hit if Russia invades Ukraine as Truss moves to toughen sanctions

Thu 3 Feb 2022
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News

ukraine russia

Britain’s food security could be impacted in the event of a Russian invasion of the Ukraine.

Ukrainian exports of grain and chicken could be hit by border blockades while fertiliser production could be affected as the UK is reliant on Russian gas supplies.

“An invasion of Ukraine will greatly harm Britain’s food security, as Ukraine is the largest geographically close food source for the UK,” warned Bate Toms, chair of the British Ukrainian Chamber of Commerce, told Politico.

Grain and chicken

Imports to the UK of Ukrainian grain products and chicken have increased in recent years with a 34% increase in baked goods also occurring between 2016 and 2020.

Government figures showed the UK imported £147.7m worth of cereals from the Ukraine in the year to the end of Q3 2021.

 Total trade was worth £1.8bn making the Ukraine the UK’s 62nd largest trade partner.

Export target

UK exports to Ukraine, which are expected to grow in the coming years, could also be hit, the government trade envoy to Ukraine said.

Catherine Meyer said British products were increasingly popular in the country.

“If there is an invasion, trade is going to be affected, and particularly if Russia occupies Ukraine. Then we’re dealing with a completely different kettle of fish,” she told Politico.

Tougher sanctions

Foreign secretary Liz Truss has announced new legislation to toughen and expand the UK’s sanctions regime in response to Russia’s aggression.

According to Politico, the UK has had an independent sanctions regime since fully leaving the EU at the end of 2020 but can currently only sanction those directly linked to the destabilisation of Ukraine.

The new legislation will allow sanctions to be imposed on any company that:

  • is linked to the Russian state
  • operates in a sector of strategic importance to the Kremlin
  • engages in business of economic significance to Russia


Individuals who own or control those organisations could also be targeted.

Sanctions could include freezing assets in the UK, preventing targets from doing business in the UK, or turning them back at the British border.

“This will amount to the toughest sanctions regime against Russia we have had in place yet and mark the biggest change in our approach since leaving the European Union,” Truss said.

How effective?

However, the effectiveness of the UK’s enforcement agency for financial sanctions – the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (OFSI) – has been questioned.

The FT reports that it has levied only six fines since being created in 2016, and only one in the 12 months to the end of March 2021.


Susan Hawley, executive director at campaign group Spotlight on Corruption, said: “This is particularly concerning as it undermines the UK’s stated ambition to ramp up its independent use of the sanctions regime post-Brexit. Sanctions without enforcement are toothless.”

An individual close to the agency said sanctions breaches took time to investigate and that fines are usually used in only the most serious cases.