YEREVAN (RFE/RL)– According to the Agriculture Minister Sergo Karapetian, Armenia’s agricultural output rose by nearly 12 percent to 931.4 billion drams ($1.94 billion) from January to November of 2015. This growth greatly contributed to the continued economic growth in the country.
The official figure is equivalent to more than one-fifth of Gross Domestic Product which the Armenian government expects to increase by at least 3 percent in real terms this year.
Favorable weather conditions appear to have been instrumental in the agricultural sector’s strong performance. In particular, they translated into plentiful harvests of apricots, grapes and other fruits and vegetables.
“Armenian farmers harvested almost 370,000 metric tons of wheat, up by 9 percent from 2014. For the first time in decades, Armenia satisfied more than half of its domestic demand for wheat,” said Karapetian.
The minister also reported a 65 percent surge in the physical volume of Armenian fruit and vegetable exports, the bulk of them going to Russia. They were clearly helped by the Russian ban on food imports from Europe.
Much of this sharp rise has been offset by the dramatic depreciation of the Russian ruble. Armenian wine and brandy companies, the most important buyers of domestically grown grapes, have also been hit particularly hard.
Karapetian insisted that despite their financial troubles most of the distilleries increased their grape purchases from farmers this fall. Many farmers complain, however, that they have still not been paid for their produce. Some have even staged protests, threatening to block highways in the wine-growing Ararat Valley south and west of Yerevan.
Karapetian downplayed the protests, saying that more than 82 percent of the grape farmers have already received payments. “There are still debts, but there are understandings between farmers and producers on when they will be paid off,” he told reporters.