A search-and-destroy operation is underway in Armenia. The targets are enemy Azerbaijani apples, which had the audacity to cross over into Armenian territory and place themselves covertly on Armenian store shelves. But, rest assured, the Armenian authorities say they have mounted a “massive” security action in response.
Ordinary citizens first detected these desperado apples’ infiltration of Armenia. Concerned grocery shoppers posted on social media photos of apple cartons, brashly emblazoned with the word “Azerbaijan,” the country against which Armenia has been at war over breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh for decades.
Against that backdrop, debates online and in the press asked whether Azerbaijan intended the apples to poison Armenians.
Wising up to the homeland security breach, Armenia’s Food Safety Service began inspecting stores nationwide on April 23. After three days of search, the problem appeared larger than originally thought. The enemy apples were found in the capital, Yerevan, and throughout its vicinity.
The Food Safety Service called on citizens to stay clear of the forbidden fruit and set up a hotline for shoppers to alert the authorities about any encounter with the Azerbaijani applies.
Photos and a description of the offenders were released. They are large, round and green. Come in black cartons. Priced at up to 1,200 drams ($2.48) a kilo (negotiable).
The apples bear labels from DAD, Azerbaijan’s largest wholesale fruit exporter.
Food safety inspectors are under order to destroy the apples on sight. That said, the apples could be presumed innocent. Armenia currently has no formal ban on imports from either Azerbaijan or Turkey, which both closed their borders with Armenia over Karabakh.
Given that situation, Armenian government agencies, including the National Revenue Service, say they are at a loss as to how the apples managed to breach Armenia’s border. They claim they have no record of any Azerbaijani fruit crossing their borders.
This is not, however, the first time that Azerbaijani produce has managed to enter Armenia. In 2011, Azerbaijani garlic turned up in Yerevan’s stores, causing similar outrage.
Quantity may provide a clue as to how the apples managed to slip into Armenia. Fifty kilograms of fruit and vegetables can enter duty-free – a provision that led the Food Safety Service’s director, Ishkhan Karapetian, to deduce that an “individual” rather than commercial importers brought the apples in.
Geography might provide another clue about the apples' handlers.
DAD’s green apples happen to be very popular in Georgia, with whom both Armenia and Azerbaijan have cordial or warm relations and an open border. So far, though, Georgia remains suspiciously silent about the whole scandal.
Whoever were the importers, they are lucky that angry crowds did not come chasing after them with pitchforks and torches, as some particularly outraged citizens reportedly have suggested.
As for Azerbaijan, one of its pro-government outlets simply wished those Armenians who had bought the apples “bon appétit,” and advised Armenian officials to busy themselves with “more serious matters.”
So far, there has been no mention of plans to retaliate for the Azerbaijani apple-invasion. But if Armenia ever decides to strike back, it’s got the apricots to do it.