Agriculture Minister Sergo Karapetian on Friday stood by his claims that exports of Armenian agricultural products to Russia should double this year because of the Russian ban on food imports from the West.
“I insist that we will double our export volumes this year,” Karapetian told a news conference. “We have a real opportunity to achieve that. Many are skeptical on this score, but I want to assure you that this will happen.”
“We have had a very good harvest this year, except for apricots [destroyed by a spring frost.] All other crops are abundant,” he said.
Armenian exports to Russia totaled $334.5 million last year, according to government data. Fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy products, prepared foodstuffs as well as alcoholic and soft drinks accounted for most of this figure.
The Armenian government moved to capitalize on the controversial Russian ban immediately after Moscow imposed it earlier this month in retaliation for Western economic sanctions. Karapetian set up last week a task force charged with helping farmers and food-processing firms boost their exports to Russia. The Russian Agriculture Ministry on Thursday expressed readiness to also assist them in that endeavor.
Karapetian dismissed critics’ speculation that increased agricultural exports will mainly benefit a handful of wealthy businesspeople, rather than Armenian farmers mostly struggling for survival. He strongly denied the existence of any monopolies in this sector and said that the number of Armenian food exporters is already growing.