Armenia will capitalize on Russia’s controversial ban on food imports from the European Union and the United States to sharply increase exports of agricultural products and prepared foodstuffs to the Russian market, Agriculture Minister Sergo Karapetian said on Wednesday.
The Russian government banned fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, milk and dairy imports from the United States, the European Union, Australia, Canada and Norway last week. It thus retaliated against the countries that imposed sanctions on Moscow for its support of rebels in eastern Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea. The ban took effect on August 7 and will last for one year.
Karapetian said the Russian move opened up new opportunities for Armenian farmers and food-processing companies. “That is an additional opportunity for us which we must use very quickly and occupy that [greater share in the Russian] market,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service during a visit to the northwestern Shirak province.
“We have started serious work in that direction,” he said. “We have met with large and medium-sized exporters and reached agreements to organize [additional] exports.
“This is especially applicable to small business. We are sorting out things to ensure that their agricultural products are also exported.”
“It’s an unlimited market for us … I think we can double export volumes by the end of this year,” the minister added, listing fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy, canned food and soft drinks.
Russia is already the main market for such products exported from Armenia. According to the National Statistical Service, Armenian agricultural and food exports amounted to $415 million last year, equivalent to 28 percent of the country’s total export revenue.
Armenian officials predicted a sizable increase in these exports in the coming years even before the Russian ban. They pointed to Armenia’s planned accession to the Russian-led Customs Union.