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Government Turns To Big Business In Hailstorm Relief Effort


Armenia - Farmers in Armavir province block a major highway to demand government compensation for their crops destroyed by hail, 20May2013.

Armenia - Farmers in Armavir province block a major highway to demand government compensation for their crops destroyed by hail, 20May2013.

The Armenian government has appealed to the country’s leading businesspeople to donate money for thousands of farmers whose crops were destroyed by a powerful hailstorm on May 12.

In a letter sent to about 100 large private firms this week, Agriculture Minister Sergo Karapetian said the government has set up a special fund as part of its efforts to repair the devastation caused to Armenia’s southern Armavir province.

More than 40 provincial villages were seriously affected by hail. In many of them, farmers lost entire anticipated harvests, their sole sources of revenue this year.

One of Karapetian’s deputies, Robert Markarian, said on Wednesday that the private sector should also care about the villagers. “The government is not dodging responsibility,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “It’s just a matter of citizens bearing responsibility [for the farmers’ plight.]”

Hundreds of affected farmers have staged angry protests since the disaster, repeatedly blocking a major highway in Armavir to demand that the government fully compensate them for their massive losses. The most recent demonstration took place there on Monday. Karapetian as well as Deputy Prime Minister Armen Gevorgian met the protesters to urge them to unblock the road and wait until the government calculates the overall monetary value of the damage caused by hail.

Makarian said the funds contributed by entrepreneurs would be spent on financial compensation demanded by farmers. But echoing statements by other government officials, he made clear that the government cannot compensate them in full.

The government said late last week that it will supply farmers will seeds and seedlings of crops such as tomatoes, cucumbers and water melons that can be planted anew. But it said there is little it can do to reverse the damage caused to vineyards and fruit orchards that bore the brunt of the hail.

Agriculture Minister Karapetian already appealed to big business for assistance after similar hailstorms that struck Armenia two years. He raised only 46 million drams ($110,000) at the time.
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