International Forum on Armenian Farming Agribusiness

YEREVAN (RFE-RL)–Hundreds of Armenian farmers and agribusiness owners joined experts from 27 countries for an international conference on ways of boosting Armenia’s struggling agriculture–which began its work in Yerevan on Thursday.

The opening session of the three-day forum was attended by senior Armenian officials and representatives of Western donor agencies and other international institutions. The latter pledged continued assistance to the sector which generates at least 20 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product.

Liz Grande–the head of the United Nations mission in Yerevan said that low-income Armenian farmers can hardly boost their productivity without obtaining machines and other equipment.

According to Zareh Izmirlian of the US-Armenian Technology Group–Armenian agriculture can not be competitive without the necessary equipment. "Our overall impression is that Armenian agriculture is not competitive at the moment," he said.

At the forum–The World Bank also pledged to continue its financing of the Armenian government’s irrigation and rural infrastructure projects.

The conference was timed to coincide with an exhibition of various agricultural products by some 60 Armenian firms. Their owners cited a wide range of problems hampering further growth of the sector–that has expanded considerably since the late 1990s.

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