By Anush Dashtents
An almost two-month period of constant rains accompanied by cold snaps appears to have dealt a severe blow to the Armenian agriculture which is comparable to the devastating effects of the 2000 drought.
Villagers and government officials said on Monday that bad weather may leave farmers across the country without much of their anticipated harvest this year. A special commission set up by Agriculture Minister David Zadoyan is assessing the damage and will present its findings later this week, a spokesman said.
A sudden heavy snowfall that struck the mountainous Gegharkunik province on April 25 is said to have frozen and destroyed most crops of grain and other cereals. Freezing temperatures also hit hard other parts of the country.
The rains and hail seriously damaged blossoms of apricot trees in the fruit-growing southern provinces of Ararat and Armavir. The apricots are one of the main agricultural products in the area. Local farmers said they will have little to sell in the summer. Ararat's provincial administration estimates the damage to the local agriculture at about 2 billion drams ($3.5 million).
According to meteorologists, the amount of precipitation in Armenia was almost twice as high as usual in March and April, while temperatures stayed below average, resulting in highly unfavorable conditions during the crucial planting period.
Unfavorable weather conditions may offset a rebound registered by the agricultural sector last year following the severe drought of 2000. With agriculture accounting for over a third of Armenia's gross domestic product, the disaster may also affect overall economic growth this year.