BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN
Residents of Armenia took to social media to point out and express their anger that apples from Azerbaijan were being sold at stores across Yerevan and surrounding cities.
Armenia’s national food safety board (SSFS), upon learning of the Azerbaijani apples, launched an investigation and set up a hotline for people to call in the event they spot those apples at their local grocery store.
The SSFS also reported that Armenia’s Customs Service did not clear any shipments from Azerbaijan and added that from April 1 to April 25 apples were imported into Armenia from Poland, Russia, Ukraine, Georgia and Italy. The body also filed relevant paperwork with government agencies and ministries to get to the bottom of this apple infiltration.
We have to pause here and state that apples are not the only Azerbaijani products that rear their ugly heads at Armenian grocery stores. In January, concerned parents reported an abundance baby formula from Azerbaijan on grocery shelves.
In fact, there is also several social media pages that are devoted to “Made in Armenia” products and also act as watchdogs on imports from other countries, especially Turkey and Azerbaijan.
What is interesting in the apple scenario is that the national food safety board seems to have been taken aback by the presence of the apples.
So, who is responsible?
Presumably, those at customs checkpoints around the country are literate and are able to read boxes that, according to press reports, are emblazoned with the word “Azerbaijan.” Those same boxes made their way from the now illusive check points onto a supplier’s warehouse, where also presumably those handling the shipment could decipher that the boxes were from Azerbaijan. Then the apples arrive at the stores where employees line the shelves, again presumably without reading what’s on the boxes.
Yet there is an easier way of getting to the bottom of this mystery. It’s simple since everyone in Armenia knows which oligarch owns what supermarket or grocery store and they can be called to task. This is where things get a bit complicated because in order to reveal the culprits, one has to knock at the doors of Republican Party of Armenia members who are possibly in the higher echelons of the political spectrum. It could even be the supermarket manager who was recorded bullying his employees into bringing votes for the Republican Party for the April 2 Parliamentary election.
After all, in January it was revealed that the owner of the store carrying the Azerbaijani baby formula was a Republican Party parliament member. Not much happened to him.
The SSFS would do well to go directly to the source (the store owners) and not drag the public through this farce of an investigation or anticipate that the public will call its hotline to report the mysterious apples.
That, of course, requires that the government take responsibility for its brazen actions that not only is sure to line several pockets, but also clearly violate ethics. Is nothing sacred anymore?
As I write this piece, I can’t help but think about the three young soldiers who were killed on the frontlines this week. As they gave their life in the defense of our homeland, some petty businessman thought to profit off of apples thinking that no one would notice.