In a further effort to shore up Armenia’s struggling agriculture, the government has decided to purchase about 2,000 metric tons of high-quality barley seeds and distribute them among thousands of domestic farmers.
Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian’s cabinet allocated about $500,000 to the Ministry of Agriculture for that purpose at its weekly session on Thursday. The seeds will be imported from Russia and Ukraine.
Agriculture Minister Sergo Karapetian said on Friday that the scheme is designed to revive farming in thousands of hectares of land which is presently not cultivated by its mostly low-income owners.
“The seeds will mainly be distributed to those farmers who have more than 300,000 square meters of land that has not been cultivated in recent years,” he told a news conference.
“The seeds will be distributed free of charge. The villagers will just have to return the same amount of seeds in the autumn,” said Karapetian.
The minister added that some 14,000 farmers have already expressed an interest in growing the crop mainly used in beer production and as animal fodder. The government will give priority to farmers in mountainous and border villages, he said.
The government indicated on Thursday that the scheme is primarily aimed at promoting more cattle breeding in those areas. In a written statement, the government said that it will draw up detailed plans for pasture management in 26 rural communities across the country.
The statement also said that the seed distribution will be part of a $23 million plan to boost the Armenian agriculture sector. It will be mostly financed by a World Bank loan allocated to Yerevan late last year.
Armenian agricultural output plummeted by over 14 percent last year due to highly unfavorable weather conditions. The slump significantly slower Armenia’s recovery from the global recession.
The government already imported 1,000 metric tons of high-quality Russian grain seeds last October as it began implementing a 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 40 percent of the crop is grown domestically.