By Atom Markarian
The Armenian government decided on Thursday to start introducing a mandatory official registration of the country’s entire livestock, citing the need to help low-income farmers and improve food safety.
The Ministry of Agriculture and local authorities will have to number and keep track of every sheep, cow and other farm animals in a special registry that will serve as an official reference source for business transactions and safety inspections. The process is due to be completed by the end of this year.
Agriculture Minister David Lokian said the decision was motivated by a desire to give villagers in mountainous areas of Armenia, traditionally reliant on cattle-breeding, better access to credit. He argued that unlike the fruit-growing farmers of the Ararat Valley and other warmer regions, they have experienced serious difficulty obtaining bank loans because their land is of little monetary value and can not be used as a collateral.
Mortgaging farm animals for a loan has been practically impossible until now given the lack of legal mechanisms defining their ownership. Officials hope the new registry will address the problem.
Lokian said the it will also improve the presently lax veterinary oversight of the cattle and the quality of meat sold in the domestic market.
Recent years’ government statistics show a stead increase in the size of Armenia’s livestock which shrunk dramatically following the collapse of the Soviet-era collective farm agriculture in the early 1990s. Cattle-breeding seems to be increasingly becoming more large-scale and commercialized, with some successful farms already boasting hundreds of cows and bulls.
Lokian announced earlier this month that Armenia has already regained the livestock level of the late Soviet period.