Authorities in Armenia’s Armavir region reported on Thursday serious damage to local agriculture from violent rain and storm that battered the fruit-growing area south and west of Yerevan earlier this week.
The hailstorm destroyed a significant part of crops grown by local farmers. The regional governor, Ashot Ghahramanian, expressed hope that they will be at least partly compensated by the government. He said he has already discussed the matter with President Serzh Sarkisian.
“The extent of the damage will be ascertained and presented to the Ministry of Agriculture so that we can see how people could be compensated,” Ghahramanian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
The scale of the devastation was visible in one provincial village, Aragats. “Eighty percent of my [expected] harvest is gone,” said Misha Hambardzumian, a villager growing grapes, apricots, cabbage and other vegetables on less than three hectares of land.
“And I must pay land tax and water fees,” Hambardzumian told RFE/RL grimly. He said he is also under a contractual obligation to supply five tons of grapes to a local brandy distillery.
Another farmer, Aram Abrahamian, said he too will have little to collect from his two-hectare plot mainly covered by a vineyard and apricot trees. “I have loans falling due and don’t know how I am going to repay them,” he said.
“We haven’t done monetary calculations [of the damage] because we don’t know yet what the prices of anticipated agricultural produce will be this year,” Aram Hakobian, an agriculture specialist in the village administration, told RFE/RL. “According to our estimates, 30 to 50 percent of crops have been destroyed.”
Both the regional authorities and farmers hope that the central government will somehow make up for the loss. Deputy Agriculture Minister Samvel Galstian indicated, however, that they should not count on large-scale assistance.
“If there are available funds in the budget, assistance will be provided,” Galstian told RFE/RL. “But this will not be a compensation.”
Armavir and the neighboring Ararat region, which essentially make up Armenia’s fertile Ararat Valley, were already hit hard by a brief cold snap in March. Agriculture Ministry officials estimated that it destroyed at least 20 percent of the country's apricot and other fruit yields anticipated in 2010.