Farmers in western Armenia blocked a major highway leading to capital Yerevan on Tuesday morning, demanding that distillers offer a higher price for grapes grown in local vineyards.
The protest action paralyzed traffic causing trouble to many drivers and commuters.
The farmers demanded that the local branch of the Yerevan Brandy Company, with which they have contracts for the supply of their produce, raise the purchasing price for grapes, which it lowered by some 4 cents per kilogram this year.
The villagers cited an increase in the cost of production, saying that they were no longer satisfied with the grape purchasing price of some 25 cents per kilogram in dollar terms. According to the protesting grape-growers, this price only covers the cost of their crops and leaves them with no income.
“Prices for chemicals and diesel fuel have increased,” one farmer complained. “They do not explain how they set the purchasing price. Today they set one price, tomorrow they may lower it.”
Talking to RFE/RL’s Armenian Service, deputy governor of Armavir Gagik Gabrielian said that liquor firms offer a price for grapes based on the quality and quantity of the produce. “It is necessary to get in touch with the company and offer that they start buying at a higher price as they did in the past,” he said.
The Yerevan Brandy Company later today issued a statement, saying that the purchasing price it offers to farmers is “the highest price level that the company can offer, considering that it purchases a maximum volume of 29,000 tons.”
The distiller reminded that the current price is by 8 percent higher than last year’s and this increase is “twice as high as the annual inflation registered in the country.”
The company says that next year it will raise the grape purchase price by the size of official annual inflation registered in Armenia.
Falling grape prices have been a recurrent problem in Armenia and in the country’s winegrowing Armavir region, in particular. During some years distillers even cut the volumes of their purchases, citing falling sales, with the central government having to urge them to buy the products of villagers.