FAO/WFP report calls for emergency aid to Armenia
During this year's crucial harvesting months, rainfall was up to 70 percent below normal in Armenia's most important agricultural areas. Potato, the country's staple crop, is expected to be 250 000 tonnes - down 40 percent from last year. Combined wheat and barley production for 2000/01 is forecast at 205 000 tonnes - 27 percent less than the 1999 harvest.
Armenia will need 502 000 tonnes of imported wheat and barley for 2000/01. Commercial imports are expected to account for 358 000 tonnes, and 70 000 tonnes of food aid has been pledged. This leaves an uncovered cereal deficit of 75 000 tonnes. The report states that "a shortfall of this magnitude, if not addressed by the international community, could severely affect vulnerable groups."
Fruit cultivation, because it relies on irrigation, was largely spared from this year's drought and production rose by nearly 50 percent. However, many small-scale fruit growers cannot sell their surplus produce owing to the poor state of roads, the high costs of transport and the general lack of an effective marketing infrastructure. Seasonal surpluses of perishable produce, such as apples, apricots and peaches, mean low prices for local fruit growers. The mission learned through individual farmers and village officials that in some areas "the current prices of these fruits are so low that they are not even picking them."
Agriculture employs 42 percent of the Armenian population and contributes about one-third to the GDP. Arable land is very limited and many farmers cultivate areas on steep slopes that have become highly eroded. As it is, Armenians suffer from widespread poverty where living conditions are already precarious. Now access to food, particularly for rural farmers, has become exceedingly difficult. Much of their produce has been lost to drought, and they have little to sell or barter.
To boost farm production and prevent more food shortages next year, the report recommends giving emergency support to the agricultural sector. Farmers need a secure supply of winter wheat seeds for planting, livestock producers need access to adequate amounts of animal feed and the country's crumbling irrigation systems require major upgrading.
13 October 2000