31 July, 2012

YEREVAN, July 31. /ARKA/. An expert in agriculture predicted today a
20-25 percent drop in this year's Armenian wheat output saying one of
the reasons was that elite wheat seeds brought in by the government
from Russia and distributed to farmers appeared to mismatch with
local climatic conditions.

Speaking at a news conference, Hrachya Berberian, who is chairman
of a non-governmental organization called Association of Farmers,
said because of low wheat spike farmers can not use harvesters on
around 8,000 hectares of land under wheat.

He further argued that before importing thousands of tons of Russian
wheat seeds the authorities should have tested it for three years in
Armenia, which was not done.

"It was a professional error, and the 'perpetrators' must be punished,"
said Berberian, calling for setting up an ad hoc commission that
must include also farmers who have appeared in a hopeless situation
to make an inquiry into this problem.

He also said that his organization has asked the president to help
exempt farmers from paying for irrigation water, and provide them
with free seeds next year.

Earlier, agriculture minister Sergo Karapetyan said the government
expected that by 2014 the country would achieve self-sufficiency in
grain and abandon imports. Officials said at that time that Armenian
farmers should be able to meet more than half of the demand already in
2013, when domestic wheat production was expected to rise to 350,000
tons. According to official data, grain output last year was 35%
higher than in 2010 securing a 39 percent self-sufficiency.

Armenia annually consumes up to 650,000 tons of food grains and relies
on import for nearly two thirds of its grain consumption.