YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—Armenian and Iranian authorities are negotiating on the possible lease by Iranian sheep and cattle breeders of mountain pastures in southeastern Armenia, it was officially confirmed on Friday.
“Various foreign investors willing to breed ship and cattle in Armenia come up with such proposals regarding not only Syunik but other regions of the republic,” Deputy Prime Minister Armen Gevorgian said, commenting on reports about the possibility of such a deal that began circulating last week.
A senior official in Armenia’s Syunik province clarified that the Iranian side has officially offered to rent thousands of hectares of land in the mountainous region adjacent to Iran. “They want to rent pastures and graze their ship and cattle there. Right now things are under discussion,” Samvel Tangian, head of the agriculture department at the provincial administration, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Tangian confirmed that the governor of Iran’s East Azerbaijan province bordering Armenia, Alireza Beigi, and Iranian businessmen accompanying him expressed such interest when they visited Syunik this summer. He said Surik Khachatrian, the Syunik governor, will visit East Azerbaijan in January for further discussions on the matter.
The official indicated that the Syunik administration is ready in principle to rent out some of at least 4,000 hectares of pastures which he said are not being used by local farmers because of their remoteness and a lack of livestock. But he declined to comment on the length and cost of the possible lease, saying that the two sides have not reached any concrete agreements yet. “At this point there is only their desire,” added Tangian.
Gevorgian, who is also Armenia’s minister for local government, likewise said that nothing has been agreed upon “in the formal sense.” Speaking at a news conference in Yerevan, he said the Armenian government is interested in seeing all domestic pastures generate revenue for local communities. For that purpose, the government is ready to consider similar arrangements in another southeastern Armenian region, Vayots Dzor, he said.
Babken Mkrtchian, head of Vayots Dzor’s agricultural department, revealed that the provincial administration itself has offered the Iranians to graze livestock on local pastures. He said officials and commercial farmers from Iran will visit Vayots Dzor next spring to inspect lands.
“We also have an agreement with Saudi Arabia,” Mkrtchian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “A businessman from there has visited and selected [pastures] and intends to develop ship breeding there soon.”
The last few years have seen an upsurge in exports of sheep from Armenia to Iran. Those exports reportedly ground to a half this autumn because of the tightening of international economic sanctions against Tehran and the resulting sharp depreciation of the Iranian national currency.