YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–The creation of an experimental collection garden covering 20 hectares in the Askeran region of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic on November 20 marked the beginning of the initial phase of the new program of agricultural assistance and development in Karabakh being implemented jointly with partners from Armenia. The Armenian supporters of the program are the Institute of Botany of the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia–the Institute of Viticulture and Wine-Making–and the Ministry of Agriculture of Armenia. The Karabakh party is represented by the Karabakh Ministry of Agriculture and the Avagnord farming company.
Elite varieties of fruit trees and wild cultivated trees have been brought to Karabakh from Armenia to maintain the genofund and conduct selection works–as well as 2,000 vines of 28 varieties.
According to Nagorno Karabakh Republic Minister of Agriculture Armenak Tsaturian–wine-making has long been among the leading industries in the Karabakh economy. There were 18 thousand hectares of vineyards in Nagorno Karabakh in the pre-war period–the yield of grapes reached up to 160,000 tons a year. However–most of those vineyards were destroyed or burnt in hostilities–with only 960 hectares of "half-dead" vineyards remaining presently. "We are able to make good varieties of wine–said the minister–but we cannot ensure productive capacities. He attached great importance to the collection garden in developing new wine-making technologies. In particular–it is planned to provide farms with saplings and train specialists on the basis of this garden.
The Karabakh government is going to issue loans to advance the program–including the allocation of 7 million drams next month and then three allocations of up to 3.5 million drams each during the next three years.
Avagnord head Benik Bakhshian expects real profit from growing seedlings and selling the garden’s produce. Such a state-run program based on farming is not typical Karabakh–as land privatization is not effective in the republic yet. Avagnord has leased a total of 300 hectares of land–and there are no more than four such farms in the tiny republic.