Armenia took delivery of nearly 1,000 metric tons of high-quality grain seeds on Friday as it began implementing a government plan to more than double domestic production of wheat in the next few years.
According to government statistics, the mountainous country of three million consumes an estimated 650,000 tons of wheat each year and less than one-third of the crop is grown domestically.
Armenian wheat output has steadily declined in recent years, with many local farmers switching to other crops due to poor yields and modest income generated by them. The Ministry of Agriculture estimates that the total area of the country’s grain fields has shrunk by roughly one-third to 80,000 hectares since 2004.
The Armenian government pledged to reverse this trend with a four-year program approved it July. It aims to raise annual wheat production to around 350,000 tons by 2014 mainly through the purchase of “elite” seeds and their distribution to farmers and agricultural firms.
The government allocated 558 million drams ($1.5 million) for that purpose for this year. It hopes that higher yields will motivate many villagers to revert to grain farming.
Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian, Agriculture Minister Gerasim Alaverdian and other government officials inspected the first consignment of seeds imported from southern Russian at a railway station in Yerevan. Alaverdian said his ministry will mainly distribute them to about a hundred large land owners and agricultural firms growing seeds.
“We decided to give the first batch of seeds to those entities that are able to engage in seed reproduction and give us good results in the future,” he told journalists.
Under the government program, recipients of these seeds will pay for them in kind after collecting their harvest. The program envisages that “elite” seed imports will be phased out by 2014.
“Starting from 2014, we will provide our farmers with quality seeds fully produced in the Republic of Armenia,” said Alaverdian.