BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN
In a classic case of greed outweighing the needs of the people, Armenia’s new agriculture minister, Sergo Karapetian said on Wednesday that the future of Armenia’s agriculture lies in the enlargement of land plots and farms, proposing to effectively kill the hundreds of thousands of small farms that operate in and feed Armenia.
Karapetian called the small farms inefficient because of their owners’ inability to buy the necessary equipment or to obtain credits because they do not have assets to use as collateral.
That’s because when most agricultural land was privatized after Armenia’s independence and was evenly distributed among the country’s rural population, successive governments did not provide state assistance, irrigation and credit incentives for the farmers to cultivate their land.
RFE/RL reported Wednesday that most farmers have been forced to sell their lands to wealthy land owners, who probably seek to consolidate their holding and reap the benefits at the expense of Armenia’s farmers.
The new minister was appointed last month, because under the old minister, the agriculture industry showed a 14-percent decline, which directly impacted Armenia’s Gross Domestic Product. Bad weather was blamed for the shortage of crops.
Karapetian, who previously managed and co-owns one of Armenia’s largest food distribution companies, now is proposing to further widen the gap and allow his wealthy cohorts to have more opportunity to amass wealth, instead of critically analyzing the situation and providing local and small farmers with incentives to grow their existing plots and crops.
The glaring conflict of interest aside, Armenia prides itself on its agriculture and the crops that not only feed the farmer, but the entire country. Karapetian’s proposal to consolidate agriculture among a few who can afford to own and operate large farms signals the government’s reckless disregard toward its own population and perpetuates the oligarchic establishment that already owns most of Armenia’s industry.
This nebulous—and dubious—proposal does not delineate the government’s efforts to protect the small farmer once this proposal in enacted.
Instead of looking to consolidate Armenia’s agro-business, the minister should propose uniting farmers under collectives and providing incentives for their crops to be sold—and exported—at higher prices to ensure a better standard of living.
But the “let them eat cake” attitude, which has prevailed in successive administrations, only stifles the population and fills the pockets of the ruling elite.
Voices of dissent—including from my own party, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation—should not only be raised high but should band together to topple this effort to oppress the farmers of Armenia.