Exports of Armenian fruits and vegetables have soared by almost 70 percent in physical terms this year despite an economic recession in Russia, their main market, Armenia’s Ministry of Agriculture said on Monday.
Statistical data released by the ministry shows particularly sharp year-on-year increases in shipments abroad of fresh vegetables carried out since the beginning of 2015. In particular, Armenia exported 4,600 metric tons of tomatoes and cucumbers, compared with only 370 tons in the same period of 2014. The ministry also reported a more than fivefold rise in exports of cabbage totaling 9,400 tons in January-October 2015.
There were also sizable gains in deliveries of other major Armenian crops such as grapes and apricots. The Ministry of Agriculture put the total volume of fruit and vegetable exports at 64,800 tons, up from 38,550 tons in January-October 2014. It said that 84 percent of them went to Russia, up from 34 percent in the year-earlier period.
Russia received more Armenian agricultural products despite last year’s sharp depreciation of its national currency, the ruble, which significantly reduced the dollar-denominated monetary value of many Armenian products sold in the Russian market. Export-oriented Armenian manufacturers of brandy and wine were hit particularly hard. Many of them have cut back or even suspended their sales in Russia over the past year.
This explains why overall Armenian exports to Russia fell by 30 percent to about $130 million in January-August 2015.
The weaker ruble’s impact on exporters of fresh agricultural produce appears to have been far less severe, however. According to Armenia’s National Statistical Service (NSS), their combined export revenue rose by 65 percent to $29 million in January-August 2015. The figure does not cover large amounts of grapes and other produce harvested in the autumn.
Officials in Yerevan will likely link this data with Armenia’s recent accession to the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). Agriculture Minister Sergo Karapetian said in June that EEU membership paved the way for “large-scale” Armenian agricultural exports to Russia.
Those exporters appear to have been helped by a Russian ban on food imports from the United States and Europe which was imposed last year in retaliation for Western economic sanctions.
The increased exports were also made possible by favorable weather conditions that translated into bumper harvests of many crops, including wheat. NSS figures show that agriculture is currently the fastest growing sector of the Armenian economy, having expanded by over 11 percent in January-September 2015.