“After everyone woke up in shock at the onset of the war, and the expansion of it during the weekend, it was decided, even though there is no import ban, that we will not deliver fish to Belarus. And to the Ukraine we can not deliver because of war,” Alexander Leonchenko tells SalmonBusiness.
Together with his brother Viachaslau Leonchenko, he runs Ice Seafood, which owns 50 per cent of the export company Firda Seafood. The other owner is Firda Seafood Group, wholly owned by fish farmer Ola Braanaas.
“We have sold salmon and trout to Ukraine and Belarus, mostly the two markets, but not anymore. Nothing.”
The Belarusian is a graduate of lives in Bergen, Norway, and has been exporting from the city for a number of years.
“Since we started Leofish in 2006, and together with Sjøtroll Havbruk established Ice Seafood, we have delivered salmon and trout in Ukraine and Belarus, the market where we are from and where we have our roots,” explains Alexander Leonchenko.
In 2020, Ice Seafood sold €60 million worth of fish. But now it is not business that is at the top of the agenda:
“We have daily contact with our customers, and try to talk to them and encourage them as best we can. I have a friend from the old Soviet Union who is sitting on the Metro in Kyiv with a child. They share one loaf of bread. They use the Metro as a bomb shelter, they are afraid to go out. She says she wants to go out, but it is too late to go out, and there are many like her,” he says.
As a family
“Ukraine and Belarus were one people, as a family, and then suddenly something terrible happened that no one could predict. And there are people who suffer,” he says, clearly affected by the gravity of the situation.
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“I hope they find a solution, that one talks together, I hope they find a solution. I know they are negotiating now. It is good that people are talking and trying to solve this. What’s happening now – it’s not working. We just hope it’s best for everyone. That civilians, women and children, do not suffer and can live a normal life.”
“Everyone knows World War II, when everyone stood together, but now something is happening that will not happen in our time. I hope that many see the seriousness of this and I hope they find a peaceful solution to this,” says Leonchenko.
He has both a mother and a mother-in-law at home in Belarus.
“Even though they have a visa to Norway, they have problems traveling abroad. And we would like to get them over, but it’s not that easy. There are no flights, nothing goes. We hope Turkish Airlines can leave in a few days so they can arrive via Istanbul.”
“They may not have the same information as us about what is happening,” he adds.
“My mother lives in a small town outside Minsk. She still works as a teacher. She is almost 75 years old, has been a teacher all her life,” he says, and adds that his father died two years ago.
He constantly follows the media to catch the latest news from the war.
“Assisting trade is one thing, it can change to other markets, but here we are talking about much much more than business. Here we are talking about life and death. We are really talking about the whole planet being in danger,” says Leonchenko.
“We hope that they will meet and talk together and try to solve this,” he repeats.