DUSHANBE -- Farmers and businessmen in Tajikistan's northern province of Sughd are desperately seeking new markets following a ban by Russia on the import of dried fruit and nuts from Tajikistan, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.
Russia's chief consumer protection body imposed the ban one month ago in response to an outbreak of polio in Tajikistan.
Ubaydullo Obidov, a Tajik state rail company official in Sughd, told RFE/RL that eight freight cars of dried fruit have already been sent back from Russia.
Russian news agencies report that about 5,326 tons of Tajik dried fruits and walnuts have been confiscated from sale in Novosibirsk alone.
Anvar, a Tajik businessman who sold dried fruits in Moscow but has now returned to Sughd, told RFE/RL that he and fellow exporters were ordered by the Russian health inspection authorities to remove all their products from sale or they would be confiscated.
The Sughd region of northern Tajikistan is the country's main exporter of dried fruits and walnuts and provides about 90 percent of such products.
Local farmers complain that the Russian ban has already affected their business. Tajikistan usually exports dried apricots and raisins to Russia, but on the eve of new harvesting season, prices have fallen by almost half, from 5,000 somoni (about $1,200) to 3,000 somoni (about $700) for the yield from each hectare of apricot orchards.
Sughd officials are desperately trying to find new markets for the region's fruit.
Local health authorities rejected as "groundless" their Russian counterparts' allegations that dried fruits could contain the polio virus. They want the World Health Organization to rule in the dispute.