An Armenian chemical company will finally start producing next month mineral fertilizers that will fully meet domestic agricultural demand, senior government officials in Yerevan said on Tuesday.
Agriculture Minister Sergo Karapetian and Energy and Natural Resources Minister Armen Movsisian made the announcement after signing a memorandum that commits their ministries to helping the Vanadzor-Khimprom company launch manufacturing operations. But they did not elaborate on that assistance.
The ministers said Vanadzor-Khimprom will manufacture 50,000 tons of fertilizers widely used by Armenian farmers and create around 300 new jobs for that purpose. Armenia imports up to 35,000 tons of them each year.
“We will organize manufacturing operations in our country and that money (import expenditure) will not leave our country,” Karapetian told reporters. “Secondly, villagers will be able to use cheaper fertilizers of higher quality, which is very important for us.”
The Soviet-era chemical plant based in the northern city of Vanadzor is still reeling from the 2008-2009 global economic crisis and the resulting collapse of international prices of calcium carbide, its main product. It stopped manufacturing the chemical compound used in steelmaking and sent much of its 830-strong workforce on indefinite leave in late 2008. The company currently manufactures only construction materials and employs about 200 people.
The idea of fertilizer production at Vanadzor-Khimprom was first floated by Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian in 2009. The company announced the impending launch of production operations a year later. However, they were delayed because of company executives say are financial and technological obstacles.
“Our specialists have worked at the plant for the last several months and I am sure that production will definitely be launched [in August,]” said Karapetian.
Energy Minister Movsisian also ruled out a further delay in fertilizer production. He told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that the Russian-owned company has already purchased and installed the necessary equipment.
The Armenian government has long subsidized retail prices of some of the imported fertilizers sold to struggling farmers by private firms. It is not clear if it will carry on with those subsidies after Vanadzor-Khimprom makes its fertilizers available to the domestic agricultural sector.