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Armenian General Wants to Monopolize Crayfish Market: Press

Armenia's State Service for Food Safety issues quality certificates for crayfish export only to two companies, one of which – Aquatic – belongs to Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Armenian Armed Forces Lieutenant General Haykaz Baghmanyan, Hraparak newspaper writes.

On Tuesday, May 3, about 700 residents of the village of Noratus in Armenia's Gegharkunik province blocked an interstate highway to demand that a ban on crayfish export be lifted. Speaking to Hraparak, protester Zorik Hakobyan said that crayfish-loaded trucks of about 20 companies have stopped receiving the corresponding quality certificates at the customs, and that they are only issued to Baghmanyan's Aquatic and its collaborator, Art-Bakh Union.

“Haykaz Baghmanyan, among other businesses, is engaged in crayfish export, and, according to the protesters, he seeks to monopolize the field. Our interviewee had the impression that [the very purpose of the ban] is to monopolize crayfish export for the General,” the paper reports, stressing that even Mkhchyan Fish, a company owned by the son of Armenia's Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan, has stopped being issued the necessary medical certificate.

“A representative of the General's company, one Karen, phones the other companies and says that they'll export our product for 1100 drams [per kilogram] (about $2,3), meanwhile, in Russia a kilogram of crayfish is sold for 1400 drams. Or they tell us to give them exclusive export rights by selling our entire crayfish to them for 200 drams per kilo. Who will want to go catch [the crayfish] from the sea and just hand it over to [Aquatic]?” the Noratus villager told Hraparak.

According to the paper, the head of the national food safety service and the Gekharkunik governor yesterday met with the protest participants and promised to ensure that everyone got an export right: “They promised that everyone would be allowed to export [crayfish] if they acted in accordance with the established standards. Hopefully, our crayfish, which has been stuck in trucks for days, will also be exported,” the protester said. 

Nvard Arakelyan, a spokesperson for the food safety service, told Hraparak that none of the 20 registered crayfish exporters have been deprived of their export rights; however, officials are currently carrying out an ongoing monitoring of a number of businesses the Ararat, Armavir and Gekharkunik provinces. The results, as stated by Arakelyan, will determine whether any of the exporters will lose their business license.