The Rosselkhoznadzor agricultural watchdog alleged a sharp increase in the presence of “harmful quarantined organisms” in Armenian vegetables, fruit and flowers inspected at Russia’s main border crossing with Georgia.
“From November 24 to 26 alone, 36 cases of contaminated flowers, cucumbers, dried fruits, grapes, cauliflower, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, apples, and pears being imported into Russia were identified,” it said in a statement.
“This indicates a decrease in oversight on the part of the Food Safety Inspectorate of Armenia and poses a threat to the phytosanitary well-being of Russia,” Rosselkhoznadzor charged, adding that it has asked the Armenian side to “immediately take comprehensive measures to prevent shipments of contaminated products to Russia.”
Armenian Economy Minister Vahan Kerobian said relevant authorities in Yerevan are already looking into Rosselkhoznadzor’s claims. He said Armenian officials will meet with their Russian colleagues later this week to try to “understand changes in the [Russian food safety] regulations that have caused such a change in statistics” alleged by the Russian watchdog. The latter reported only about 40 violations by Armenian food exporters in the course of 2022, Kerobian told journalists.
The Rosselkhoznadzor statement insisted that the “rules for inspection and clearance of cargo coming from Armenia have not changed.”
Many drivers of Armenian trucks transporting food and other goods to Russia via Georgia say, however, that their cargo is now subjected to much stricter and lengthier sanitary checks on the Russian side of the Upper Lars border crossing.
Hundreds of such trucks remained stuck at Upper Lars on Wednesday. Dozens of others were denied entry to Russia and had to return to Armenia in recent days.
Armenian opposition figures believe that Moscow is thus retaliating against Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s decision to boycott last week’s Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) summit in Minsk, which highlighted a significant deterioration of Russian-Armenian relations. Government officials in Yerevan have so far been careful not to make such claims in public.
Russia is Armenia’s number one trading partner and main export market for Armenian agricultural products, prepared foodstuffs and alcoholic drinks. Their exports totaled $844 million in the first nine months of this year, according to government data.