Agriculture Minister Ignati Arakelian insisted on Wednesday that objective market trends, notably a sharp rise in Armenia’s exports of livestock, are responsible for the increased retail prices of meat in the country.
A rise in the prices of pork has been particularly drastic in the past several weeks. Beef and lamb prices have gone up less sharply: by up to 30 percent:
Arakelian dismissed suggestions that the Armenian government could have prevented or mitigated these price hikes which have made meat even less affordable for a large part of the country’s population.
“The price of pork has gone up in the international market, and that made pork more expensive [in Armenia,]” he told a news conference. “Exports of lamb have doubled, and that has led to higher prices of lamb. As regards beef, the beef price has not gone up as much as the pork and lamb prices have.”
Arakelian reported an even sharper increase in the physical volume of Armenian exports of live cattle and fresh beef. They have risen tenfold this year, he said, adding that Iraq, Qatar as well as Georgia are the main destinations of these exports.
According to the National Statistical Service (NSS), exports of Armenian meat and livestock soared by 62 percent to $35 million in January-August 2017. The Yerevan daily “Haykakan Zhamanak” reported on Tuesday that shipments of live cows and sheep from Armenia to Qatar and Iraq intensified in September.
Arakelian said that despite their negative impact on domestic meat consumption the higher prices will stimulate livestock breeding in Armenia and benefit cattle and sheep famers across the country. He argued that the mostly subsistence farmers badly need additional income.
He said he is surprised that beef prices have not risen more sharply given this summer’s drought that pushed up the cost of hay used for feeding cows. “It’s not really a price hike,” the minister claimed.
Babken Pipoyan, who runs a non-governmental consumer rights group, predicted that the beef prices will rise significantly in the near future. He said that the current lack of affordable animal feed is forcing famers to cull their cattle en masse and thereby keep up beef supply to the domestic market for now.
Pipoyan also accused the Agriculture Ministry and Arakelian in particular of doing nothing to prevent the increased cost of meat. “We are dealing with a finance specialist who makes different comments that may be logical or illogical,” he charged, questioning the minister’s competence.
Arakelian managed Armenia’s largest brandy company before being appointed as agriculture minister a year ago.