Not just vodka: Russian imports to Ohio include steel, fuel and ammo

In this September 2017 file photo, Darin Viel packed stainless steel coils at United Performance Metals in Hamilton. GREG LYNCH / STAFF

Combined ShapeCaption
In this September 2017 file photo, Darin Viel packed stainless steel coils at United Performance Metals in Hamilton. GREG LYNCH / STAFF

Russian imports to Ohio grew 112% last year

Gov. Mike DeWine DeWine signed an executive order this week prohibiting state investment or purchasing activity from aiding Russia, including state sales of vodka.

But a Dayton Daily News examination shows that Ohio companies depend on a wide variety of other Russian products.

Russian imports to Ohio on a variety of products jumped 112% overall from 2020 to 2021, according to data from the Ohio Department of Development, fueled primarily by a big jump in imports of Russian iron and steel.

Iron and steel imports from Russia to Ohio rose to $751.2 million in 2021, up 118% from $344.5 million the year before, state data shows.

The state did not have information on specific Dayton companies that do business with Russia, but Department of Development data shows a growing Buckeye State reliance on Russian goods.

Imports of Russian mineral fuel and oil also saw a big jump last year compared to 2020 levels, reaching $22 million in that category, up from $2.9 million in 2020, a 643% jump, state data showed.

Ohio also took in a growing amount of Russian fertilizers, $14.4 million last year, 542% over 2020′s $2.2 million of Russian imports in that category.

Imports of Russian arms and ammunition jumped more than 47% last year, from $7.3 million in 2020 to $10.7 million.

Percentage-wise, the category of paper product imports from Russia saw the biggest jump last year.

Imports of paper, paperboard and articles of paper pulp jumped a massive 5,658% last year, reaching nearly $1.9 million from just over $32,000 in 2020.

Meanwhile, the value of Ohio exports to Russia also grew last year, albeit at a slower pace. Ohio exports to Russia reached nearly $220 million in 2021, a more-than 25% jump from 2020′s almost $175 million.

The richest category of Ohio exports to Russia were in perfumery and cosmetics, hitting $76.2 million last year, up 42% from nearly $54 million in 2020.

Industrial machinery, including computers, were another big Ohio category for exports to Russia, $34.6 million last year, up 15% from $30 million the year before.

Nam Vu, a Miami University professor of economics, does not see Russia as a significant trading partner with Ohio.

The number of imports from Russia may sound like a lot, but compared to Mexico, Canada, China and a host of other nations, the number is actually relatively small, Vu said. According to a 2020 Census ranking states as final destinations for foreign products, Russia is No. 24 on a list of importing nations to Ohio, just below Sri Lanka and above South Africa.

The larger issue is not a disruption of Russia’s trading relationship with Ohio, as Vu sees it.

“The larger issue is the overall impact on inflation,” he said. “Because that can increase uncertainty, and that can price into a higher level of inflation — and that significantly will increase the recession risk, not only just for Ohio but for many other states as well.”

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