By Irina Hovannisian
Russia banned imports of meat from Armenia on Wednesday, citing an outbreak of African Swine Fever (ASF) registered in the country’s northern regions late last week.
Russian authorities also restricted imports of some Armenian agricultural products for the same reason.
According to the Itar-Tass news agency, the ban followed the release of the results of laboratory tests conducted in Armenia by Russian food safety experts. They concluded that ASF, which rarely occurs outside Africa, was the cause of mass deaths of pigs reported from several villages in the Lori and Tavush provinces bordering Georgia.
The Armenian Agriculture Ministry arrived at the same conclusion at the weekend, quarantining the affected communities. “Transport of pork, live pigs and animal fodder from those communities is banned,” Grigor Baghian, head of the ministry’s Food Safety and Veterinary Inspectorate, told RFE/RL.
Baghian said police and veterinary services have set up roadblocks outside those villages to enforce the quarantine. The authorities have also ordered a mandatory cull of all local pigs, he said, adding that more than a thousand of them have already been killed.
Baghian said his agency believes that the disease spilled into Armenia from Georgia where an ASF outbreak occurred on a larger scale earlier this summer. Tens of thousands of pigs have died or been culled there as a result.
Although the disease poses little danger to humans, it seems to have already reduced pork consumption in Armenia. Pork was not available for sale in one of central Yerevan’s main markets on Wednesday. “People don’t buy pork, and so we stopped selling it,” one meat trader told RFE/RL.
Traders in another market did sell pork which they said is supplied from the country’s southern regions and closely inspected by food safety experts. But they said pork sales have dropped considerably in the past few days.