Wheat production in Armenia will not fall this year despite weather conditions that have been less favorable for the staple crop than in 2011, a senior government official predicted on Wednesday.
“Our total output will be no lower than in 2011, unlike in much bigger wheat-producing countries,” Deputy Agriculture Minister Samvel Galstian told journalists. He said it could even slightly exceed the 2011 production level of 223,000 metric tons.
Armenian wheat output rose by roughly 20 percent last year owing to a relatively good weather. The government also attributed the increase to 1,000 tons of high-quality grain seeds which it imported from Russia and distributed to Armenian farmers.
The distribution was part of a government program to gradually raise domestic wheat production to 350,000 tons by 2014.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, the total area of the country’s grain fields expanded by over 20 percent to around 100,000 hectares last fall. The government hoped that this will translate into a corresponding rise in 2012 wheat yields. Galstian’s projections are thus well short of the government’s and farmers expectations.
Villagers in the northwestern Shirak province, one of the country’s main wheat-growing regions, blamed excessive rainfall for their worse-than-expected harvest. Some of them also complained about the quality of the so-called “elite seeds” purchased from the state. “We were supposed to collect 5 tons [of wheat] per hectare but will get 1 ton at most,” one of them told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Movses Manukian, head of the agriculture department at the provincial administration, said Shirak’s wheat output is likely to be flat this year only thanks to the fact that wheat seeds were planted in an additional 3,000 hectares of land.
The sector’s anticipated performance means Armenia will remain heavily dependent on wheat imports that mainly come from Russia and Ukraine. The mountainous country of three million consumes an estimated 650,000 tons of wheat each year.
According to the World Bank, global prices for wheat have risen by 50 percent since mid-June mainly due to a severe summer drought in the United States, the world’s biggest producer of cereals. Unfavorable weather conditions in Russia, Ukraine and much of Europe have also been a factor.