A multilateral lending arm of the OPEC group of oil-exporting nations agreed on Thursday to provide the Armenian government with a $20 million loan designed to support Armenia’s struggling agriculture.
A relevant agreement reached with the OPEC’s Fund for International Development (OFID) is the latest in a series of government measures aimed supporting a major sector of the Armenian economy.
The agreement was signed in Vienna by Armenian Finance Minister Vache Gabrielian and OFID Director-General Suleiman Al-Herbish in the presence of Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian. The latter visited the Austrian capital to participate in an international economic forum.
In a written statement, the Armenian government said the loan repayable in 15 years will be used for upgrading rural infrastructures and “building farmer capacity.” “The beneficiaries of the program will mainly be residents of rural areas and, in particular, small-scale producers, those involved in fruit production as well as representatives of low-income mountainous communities,” it said.
The statement quoted Gabrielian as saying that the OFID credit will help to reduce rural poverty. No further details were reported.
The Armenian agricultural sector, which contracted sharply last year, has been a key focus of the government’s economic policy in recent months. Measures taken by the government include a $21 million program to support livestock farming in 55 mountainous villages across Armenia.
The bulk of that program is to be financed from a World Bank loan disbursed in March. The authorities in Yerevan say it will boost meat and milk production and improve pasture management in those impoverished communities.
Government officials forecast earlier this year that the sector will expand by 10 percent in 2011. However, official statistics for the first quarter show Armenian agricultural output falling by 1.4. percent year on year.