An association representing Armenia’s 180 or so fish farms on Tuesday joined other local business groups in expressing serious concern about economic consequences of the country’s upcoming accession to the Russian-led Customs Union.
Artur Atoyan, the chairman of the Armenian Union of Fish Farmers, claimed that the industry employing more than 10,000 people will face bankruptcy if Armenia adopts much higher import duties for manufactured feeds set by the trade bloc.
Atoyan said the protectionist tariffs are designed to support Russian companies producing the feeds. They are more expensive and less productive than the feeds that have for years been imported to Armenia from the European Union and Chile, he said.
Atoyan warned that the resulting rises in the prices of fish bred in artificial ponds across the landlocked country would hit hard both Armenian consumers and manufacturers. “We would have job losses, more unemployment, and fewer possibilities of earning a living,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Fish feed is one of several thousand items from which the Customs Union’s three member states -- Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan -- levy significantly higher import duties than Armenia. The Armenian government hopes that the union will allow it to continue applying existing tax rates to as many as 850 types of imported goods.
Atoyan said his association will lobby the government to include fish feed on that list.
It is not clear whether the list includes inexpensive second-hand cars mainly imported from the EU, the United States and Japan. There are an estimated 7,000 Armenians dealing in them on a regular basis.
A business group that claims to represent them warned last week that the cost of such vehicles could triple if relevant Customs Union duties, designed to protect Russia’s car industry, are adopted by Armenia. It said thousands of car dealers would face ruin in that case.