By Atom Markarian
The government approved on Tuesday an ambitious “food security” program that aims to make Armenia largely self-sufficient in supplies of agricultural products by 2015.
The ten-year plan pledges government support for the country’s agriculture and food processing industry so that they can gradually meet as much as 75 percent of domestic demand in foodstuffs. Officials said that proportion will correspond to an internationally accepted threshold for a high level of food self-sufficiency.
The program was drawn up by an inter-ministerial commission formed by Prime Minister Andranik Markarian last May. Markarian told several government ministries to come up with specific action plans stemming from it within the next three months.
Armenian farmers and agricultural firms currently account for 55 percent of food products sold in the domestic market. Foodstuffs make up a considerable part of Armenian imports that totaled $1.35 billion last year.
Armenia, for example, is almost 100 percent reliant on imports of sugar and cooking oil, but imports virtually no fruits, potatoes and other vegetables. Most of the wheat, meat and dairy products available for sale are also domestically produced.
Hrachya Tspnetsian, a senior official from the Agriculture Ministry, said the success of the food security plan also hinges on the purchasing power of the population which is vital for stimulating agriculture and agribusiness. Tspnetsian said another aid of the program is to enable every Armenian to consume the “physiological minimum” of at least 2,100 kilocalories of food a day. He admitted that many people can not afford that now due to widespread poverty.
According to household surveys conducted by the National Statistical Service, the average Armenian family spends two thirds of its budget on food.