Russia accuses Armenia of food safety violations and suspends dairy imports
03 Apr 2023 --- Russia has moved to ban dairy products coming from Armenia after Russian veterinary inspectors claimed to have found raw materials produced in Iran, prohibited in Russia by the Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Supervision (Rosselkhoznadzor).
The trade restriction comes as Armenia edges closer to ratifying the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) founding treaty. The ICC issued two weeks ago a warrant arrest against president Putin for the war crime of “unlawful deportation of children from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation.”
The timeline of the events shows Russia might be trying to use food to exert pressure on its neighbor and former Soviet Union republic.
Rosselkhoznadzor conducted the inspections on Armenian dairy products between March 20-24. On March 24, the Armenian Constitutional Court deemed the ratification process for Armenia to join the ICC legal, after beginning discussion over the topic in December.
After negotiations on March 31, Russia decided to suspend the certification of dairy products to Russia from all Armenian enterprises starting April 5.
According to the UN Comtrade database, Armenia’s dairy exports amounted to over US$30 million in 2022.
“Insufficient level of state control”
According to the Rosselkhoznadzor, the increase in volumes of dairy product supplies to the Russian market from Armenia moved its food safety authorities to work to “find out the reasons for this growth.”
“The nature of the identified violations also indicates the lack of proper control by the state veterinary service over the activities of dairy processing enterprises, which raises the risk of low-quality and unsafe products being imported into Russia,” said the country authorities after finding that Armenia was using raw materials from Iran.
The Rosselkhoznadzor says it is “particularly concerned” about cases where third-country food reaches Russian markets.
“The possibility of resuming supplies will be discussed further, following the results of the work carried out by the Armenian side to eliminate the identified violations,” the food safety body says.
Although Armenia authorities admit an increase in the volume of exports of dairy products from Armenia to Russia this year compared to 2022, they deny any wrongdoing.
“No food safety violations that threaten human life and health have been found. The Food Safety Supervision Authority properly controls the production of dairy products and the entire food production chain,” said the Armenian food safety authorities.
Besides dairy, Armenia’s main F&B exports to Russia are fresh fruits, vegetables, meat and alcoholic drinks.
Food as an instrument of political pressure
Over the last few years, Russia has been accused of using food to exert pressure on other countries to achieve its geopolitical objectives.
Ukraine has repeatedly accused Russia of blocking the Black Sea Grain Initiative by delaying inspections on ships sailing with foodstuffs toward global ports. At one point, 165 ships were stuck in a queue near Turkey, where checks are still carried out.
Other former and current allies of Russia have also been the object of pressure through food bans. In 2019, Russia temporarily blocked the entry of Belarussian apples and pears into its market. Last year, Russia barred Moldovan fruit imports.
Similarly, China has introduced different food export bans for Taiwanese foodstuffs in the last year.
By Marc Cervera
To contact our editorial team please email us at email@example.com
Subscribe now to receive the latest news directly into your inbox.