The Turkish tomato, the ultimate victim of the Russia-Turkey food fight, is suspected of finding an unlikely way around the Russian import ban -- Armenia.
Following its embargo on agricultural imports from Turkey -- Moscow’s retaliation for Ankara’s downing a Russian warplane last year -- Russia began getting its tomatoes and other salad ingredients from other countries and territories in the neighborhood. “Iran, our friends from Abkhazia, colleagues from Armenia have been taking over the market,” elaborated Igor Artemyev, head of Russia’s Anti-Trust Service, to the Kremlin-run Sputnik news network.
But Moscow also suspects that the Turkish tomato went undercover to infiltrate Russia, trying to pass itself off as Armenian, among other fake identities. Earlier this month, the Russian food safety agency, Rosselkhoznadzor, said that the spike of food imports from Armenia and other countries prompt some doubts. The agency pointed out that imports of tomatoes from Armenia reached a rate of a thousand tons in January and February this year, while in the same period of the last year Armenia did not export any tomatoes to Russia.
Rosselkhoznadzor, long known for its vigilance against suspected covert culinary operations, said that it contacted Armenian officials to make sure that the tomatoes were not coming from Turkey or the European Union. Fruits and veggies from both Armenia and Azerbaijan have been held at the Russian border on several occasions as Russian officials tried to check the quality and the provenance of the imports.
The tomato-check did not entertain some Armenian commentators. After all, officially, Moscow and Yerevan are supposed to be the best of pals when it comes to trade. And the Russian-Turkish brushfire is but a petty brawl compared to the Armenian-Turkish feud that’s been going on for over a century, since the mass killing of ethnic Armenians in the Ottoman Empire.
But despite the tensions and the absence of diplomatic ties between Ankara and Yerevan, Turkish tomatoes have been coming to Armenia, enraging local producers, Hetq.am reported.
Whether or not any of these Turkish tomatoes proceed to Russia disguised as Armenian tomatoes remains a moot question. Rosselkhoznadzor had been assured that the spike in tomato imports from Armenia was caused not by the re-export of Turkish produce, but rather by Armenian producers growing more crops to capitalize on the market opportunity created by the Moscow-Anakara dispute.