Sarkisian made the announcement as his cabinet approved changes in the program that was launched when Armenia took delivery of 1,000 metric tons of Russian seeds last October.
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. 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 four-year government program aims to reverse this trend and raise annual wheat production to around 350,000 tons by 2014 mainly through the purchase of “elite” seeds for farmers and agricultural firms.
Armenia -- A worker opens a rail car laden with imported grain seeds, 1Oct 2010.
The government allocated 558 million drams ($1.5 million) for that purpose in 2010. It hopes that higher yields will motivate many villagers to revert to grain farming.
“We will import high-quality elite seeds from the Russian Federation this year as well,” Sarkisian told ministers. “In addition, we are ready to buy 800 tons of sees from our 15 seed-growing companies this year.”
A government statement quoting Sarkisian did not specify the amount of additional seed imports or funding for their purchase approved by the cabinet. The prime minister said only that they will be handed out to a larger number of farmers across the country.
“We will achieve tangible results already this year because the volume of distributed seeds is becoming accessible to thousands of farmers,” he said.
The scheme envisages that recipients of these seeds will pay for them in kind after collecting their harvest.
Earlier this year, the government also purchased about 2,000 metric tons of Russian and Ukrainian barley seeds and delivered to them to thousands of farmers. The move stemmed from a separate government program aimed at promoting more cattle breeding in impoverished mountainous regions. Barley is mainly used in beer production and as animal fodder in Armenia.