Exports of Armenian fresh fruits and vegetables mainly going to Russia nearly doubled in the first five months of this year, according to Armenia’s National Statistical Service (NSS).
The government agency also reported this week significant double-digit rises in export revenue from alcoholic beverages and prepared foodstuffs. Russia is the main export market for those products as well.
NSS data put the combined market value of Armenian fruit and vegetable exports in January-May 2016 at about $30 million, up from $16.8 million in the same period in 2015.
Armenia’s overall farming output rose by only 8 percent year on year, suggesting that its proportion sold abroad -- and Russia in the first instance -- is growing far more rapidly. Government officials in Yerevan will attribute this trend to Armenia’s membership in the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), effective from January 2015.
Armenian exports to Russia plummeted by nearly 27 percent in 2015 primarily because of a sharp depreciation of the Russian ruble. With oil prices beginning to rally in January, the Russian currency has strengthened by nearly 20 percent against the U.S. dollar since the start of this year, translating into more revenue for Armenian exporters.
According to the NSS, total Armenian exports to Russia doubled year on year to $132.4 million in January-May 2016.
Citing figures released by the EEU’s executive body in Moscow, the Yerevan newspaper “168 Zham” reported last week that Armenian brandy, popular in Russia, accounted for the biggest share of this gain.
Official Armenian statistics show that brandy production in the country soared by more than half in physical terms in the five-month period. The Armenian brandy and wine industry traditionally oriented towards the Russian market was hit hard by the weakened ruble last year.
“168 Zham” also revealed a more than tenfold surge in exports of Armenian tomatoes to Russia and other EEU member states. A Russian government ban on agricultural imports from Turkey imposed late last year clearly contributed to this unprecedented increase.
Agriculture Minister Sergo Karapetian told reporters on June 22 that Armenia has exported 63,700 metric tons of fruits and vegetables so far this year, compared with 76,700 tons exported in the entire year 2015. In his words, apricots accounted for nearly 10 percent of the total volume and their exports more than doubled in physical terms in January-May.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin hailed the increased food and liquor imports from Armenia when he met with his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sarkisian in Saint Petersburg on June 20. Putin attributed that to “integration processes” between the two countries, clearly alluding to Armenia’s controversial accession to the EEU.