The Vanadzor-Khimprom company based in the northern town of Vanadzor has been hit hard by the global economic crisis and, in particular, a collapse of international prices of calcium carbide, its main product. It stopped manufacturing the chemical compound used in steelmaking and sent much of its 830-strong workforce on indefinite in late 2008.
In an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian service, Vanadzor-Khimprom’s executive director, Aleksandr Snegiryov, said the company reactivated its carbide production unit late last month and is currently also manufacturing construction materials. It will also start soon producing mineral fertilizers widely used by Armenian farmers, he said.
Armenia has until now imported them from Georgia and other countries. Visiting the Soviet-era plant in June last year, Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian suggested that it substitute for those imports and instructed the Ministry of Agriculture to provide Vanadzor-Khimprom with relevant technical assistance.
According to Snegiryov, the production level will initially stand at one thousand metric tons per month and could rise later on. The Armenian government subsidizes and distributes to farmers an estimated 20,000-25,000 tons of fertilizers each year.
Sarkisian, who is a native of Vanadzor, floated the idea as he publicly rejected the Russian-owned company’s request for $3 million in financial assistance. The Vanadzor-Khimprom management asked the government earlier in 2009 to allocate the sum from a $500 million anti-crisis loan disbursed to Armenia by Russia.
Snegiryov said Vanadzor-Khimprom’s Russian parent company, Roding Limited International, has since raised funds needed for the plant’s rehabilitation. He said most of its 600 or so workers laid off in 2008 have already been rehired. He also claimed to have mostly cleared the company’s backlog of back wages accumulated in 2009.
Still, the company has yet to pay its employees for the past two months. It also owes Vanadzor municipality 60 million drams ($165,000) in property and land taxes.