Russia’s agricultural watchdog has restricted shipments of tomatoes and apples from Azerbaijan after pests were found in the products. The embargo comes into force on December 10.
Russia’s Rosselkhoznadzor (Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance) said in a statement on Wednesday that it had repeatedly warned Azeri exporters about the rising number of “quarantine objects” in the fruit and vegetable supplies.
The watchdog earlier said that the number of such cases had sharply increased in 2020 compared to the year before. Pests such as grapholita molesta, a moth that damages mainly stone fruits and causes significant economic losses, as well as one of the largest pests of tomato plants in the Mediterranean and other warm parts of Europe, the tomato leafminer, or tuta absoluta, were found in apple and tomato shipments from Azerbaijan.
Rosselkhoznadzor said it had recorded 17 such cases since October 22.
Azerbaijan is one of the largest suppliers of tomatoes to Russia, with imports amounting to nearly $190 million and accounting for around a third of total inbound shipments of the fruit last year.
Baku has been surprised by Moscow’s ban, RIA Novosti reported, citing a person familiar with the matter. Nearly 90 percent of Azerbaijan’s export revenues come from hydrocarbons sales, but tomato exports are the leading non-oil and gas products shipped from the Caspian state. According to Azerbaijan’s customs data, from January to October it shipped over 160,000 tons of tomatoes, over $173 million-worth, to foreign buyers.
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Azerbaijan was not the only country that was subject to Russia’s import freeze this month. Rosselkhoznadzor has also voiced safety concerns over Turkish tomato imports, but they avoided a blanket ban, with only two provinces facing temporary restrictions starting on Friday. Moscow imposed similar restrictions on Wednesday on tomatoes and peppers from a province in Uzbekistan as well as on an Armenian region bordering Turkey.
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