Prices of meat and some meat products have decreased in Yerevan markets in recent days in what may be a reaction to an apparent rise in the rate of slaughter of farm animals in Armenia.
Many villagers making a living by raising cattle say an unprecedented hike in animal feed prices may be the main cause of such a situation.
Beef that usually sold at a price of about $6 per kilogram has been by about 75 cents cheaper at most butcher’s shops in the Armenian capital these days.
Meat sellers, too, explain this price decrease by the mass slaughter of cattle now being carried out by farmers who find it unaffordable to pay for winter forage.
In Armenia’s northwestern Aragatsotn province where raising livestock is the main occupation for many villagers, farmers have told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am) that their business is becoming increasingly unprofitable for them.
Residents of Nerkir Bazmaberd said this year they will have to slaughter even the few cattle that they have.
“We have two cows. The price of animal feed has gone up and a stack of grass is now sold at a price of 1,500-1,600 drams (about $3.7-4). Keeping a cow costs you more than you can get from it,” complained one farmer.
Deputy Agriculture Minister Grigori Baghian, meanwhile, downplayed the extent of cattle slaughter, calling it a common thing for this time of the year. He also denied that such an attitude by farmers could be connected with higher fodder prices.
“After all, farmers keep their cattle for slaughtering it one day… This in some way has contributed to the decrease in meat prices on the market,” said the official.
Baghian insisted that farmers experienced no shortage of animal feed this year as anticipating a possible shortage of grass still in summer agricultural authorities allowed villagers to mow some meadow grass to store it up for winter.
Economist Vahagn Khachatrian, however, called the continuing slaughter of livestock a real problem that needed to be addressed by the Ministry of Agriculture sooner rather than later.
“In conditions of higher fodder prices ordinary farmers can no longer engage in animal husbandry and the Ministry must take appropriate steps to deal with the situation. But as always officials don’t act because large businesses are unaffected and have not made complaints,” he said.
Khachatrian said most villagers left without a livelihood will leave their villages soon to clear the way for large “oligarch-owned” farms.
“This mass slaughter of cattle will soon result in the hike of prices for dairy products and cause a shortage of meat. As a result, meat prices will go up and consumers will be on the receiving end again,” the economist said.