Russia’s recently announced plans to switch to homemade condoms might be a business opportunity for Armenia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. As members of the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union, these countries are excluded from Russia’s plans to restrict condom imports.
Ever since Armenia chose membership in the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) over a free-trade arrangement with the European Union, the country has been debating the benefits of ties with one bloc over the other. Now, for the first time, Armenian media has voiced regret that their country is not producing safe-sex items, as the Russian government has said that it will be purchasing only EEU-made condoms.
So far, Moscow’s embargo plans seem to extend only to state purchases of health supplies; retailers can still carry imported brands. The reasoning for the measure was variously put down to hopes to bolster domestic production or retaliate against the West for its sanctions against Russia’s campaign in Ukraine.
Some believe that, thanks to the restrictions, Russians will be making more condoms and/or more babies. Government aide Gennady Onishchenko, a former chief sanitation inspector best known in the Caucasus for bans on imported Georgian food products, expressed the hope that Russians will become more selective in picking sex partners and that the country's "demographic problems" will be resolved.
One condom wholesaler, Yeseniya Shamonina, who runs a prezervativnaya store (a condom boutique) in Moscow, told Rusnovosti.ru that imports take up 97 percent of the market and consumers are skeptical about the quality of local makes.
Some Armenian news outlets have joshed about the potential opportunities this leaves for their country, always keen for an economic pick-me-up. As one reporter put it, Armenia can start producing and selling condoms to Russia and will not have to worry about quality too much. After all, unreliable contraceptives will only dovetail with Russian hopes for a higher birth rate.