By Armen Zakarian
Armenia’s agricultural sector is on track to grow by at least ten percent this year after last year’s severe drought, Agriculture Minister Zaven Gevorgian said on Wednesday.
The Armenian government estimated that several months of unusually hot weather the prolonged absence of rains cost the agriculture, which provides nearly one third of Armenia’s GDP, over $100 million in damages in 2000. The drought, described by Prime Minister Andranik Markarian as a “serious threat to Armenia’s food security,” also hit hard neighboring Georgia, Iran and Azerbaijan.
Gevorgian told a news conference that a good harvest and higher demand in agricultural products by the food processing industry have given a strong boost to the sector this year. He said in particular that Armenian farmers will collect a total of about 400,000 metric tons of potatoes, 25 percent more than last year. Potatoes are a basic staple food in Armenia.
Gevorgian admitted that serious problems with supplies of irrigation water, a key concern of the local farmers, linger on.
The private farmers, who own more than 90 percent of Armenia’s agricultural land, complain that they are often unable to irrigate their land even after paying their water bills on time.