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Armenia’s exports of apricots, a major agricultural product, to Russia and other countries have nearly doubled this year, reaching a record high level, the Ministry of Agriculture said on Thursday.

Figures released by the ministry put the total physical volume of those exports at around 23,240 metric tons, up by 84 percent from last year. More than 85 percent of them went to Russia and another 11 percent to neighboring Georgia.

The ministry also reported a 47 percent surge in apricot purchases by Armenian food-processing companies, totaling just over 13,000 tons. The 28 firms turn the famously delicious fruit, collected and sold in June-August, into juices and preserves.

Armenian apricot output appears to have surpassed last year’s bumper harvest despite a powerful hailstorm that struck the southern Armavir province, one of the country’s main fruit-growing areas, in May. Nearly 50 local communities lost most of their crops, notably apricots, as a result.

The government data said nothing about the monetary value of apricots exported from Armenia and supplied to local food-processing firms. Wholesale buyers typically purchased them for 200-400 drams ($0.5-1) per kilogram from farmers depending on the size and appearance of the apricots. Many farmers were unhappy with these prices, saying that they barely cover their production costs.

About two thousand of them blocked a highway in another southern province, Ararat, in mid-June to demand that the prices be raised to 500 drams per kilogram. They also demanded that apricot exporters end what they called weight manipulation.

Similar protests erupted in Armavir later in June. Hundreds of apricot farmers there complained that wholesale buyers are ignoring their communities because their produce battered by hail looks less attractive.

The Armavir protest came just days after Agriculture Minister Sergo Karapetian’s visit to the province. Karapetian assured local villagers that they will have no trouble selling their fruits. He also inspected the wholesale purchase of apricots by one of the Yerevan-based companies exporting them.
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