Our interview with Minister of Agriculture of the Republic of Artsakh Aram Mkhoyan is on the results of the harvesting in the Republic, the impact of the recent hailstones and downpours, and the forecasts of the agricultural indexes for this year.
- Mr. Mkhoyan, can you, please, brief on the current process of agricultural works - the year seems to have certain difficulties ...
- It is a typical agricultural year with its climatic peculiarities and whims. While two months ago we were concerned about the drought, currently some areas have been damaged by hail, which makes only 3-4% of all the area under crops. The agricultural year never ends. It is always in process. We started the autumn harvesting over two weeks ago. During the same period of 2016, we had about 7,000 hectares of harvested area. This year, the figure is only 500 hectares less. Instead, growth of yield is noticeable this year. While the index per hectare made 24 centners last year, it amounts to 25.1 centners this year.
- Do you have any data on the damage caused by hail and downpour?
- Of course, we have. The damaged areas make 3-4 thousand hectares, 200 hectares of which are perennial plantations, especially vineyards, and which were damaged by over 50%. 3 thousand hectares under autumn crops, as well as 600-700 hectares under some spring crops, such as buckwheat, sunflower, and corn. The most affected areas are Askeran and Martuni regions.
- Was it impossible to predict, prevent or minimize the disaster-caused damage?
- It was possible to predict and we do it, but, as you know, predicting is one thing and preventing - something quite different. Surely, works are conducted in this direction, and our respective services fix all this, but when heavy clouds with thousands of tons of ice cubes are formed, then our technical capabilities are already ineffective.
- As to the harvesting process, where is it going on and is there enough technical equipment?
- As I have noted, the harvesting started about two weeks ago. The works are currently underway in lowlands, such as Kashatagh, Askeran, Martuni and Hadrut. As for the technical equipment, we should gladly mention that there is no problem with it. We have over 70 highly-modern and over 220 Soviet-era combine harvesters.
- Have fire cases been registered? And, in general, are adequate firefighting measures used?
- We constantly implement fire-fighting complex works, which give their positive results - in 2015-2016, we had no serious fire cases.
- Every year after the harvest, there occur certain problems at the grain market related to wheat sales, and there are price fluctuations. Is the Government going to interfere with the price regulation this year?
- Surely. During harvesting, usually the supply exceeds the demand, as a result of which there is a large number of agricultural products at the market, in this case grain, which gives enables some people to play a crucial role in the price policy, and more specifically, an attempt is made to obtain agricultural products at the possible lowest price. The Government of the Republic of Artsakh has always promoted the reduction of similar impact. This year we will also try to play a decisive role at the market. In other words, this year the state will also assist the landowner in the consumption of agricultural products, as well as in harvesting, the harvest transportation and sale, coordinating these works.
- In other spheres, such as horticulture, water systems, tobacco, and vegetable grains, do the state measures give any results? What are the expectations, compared with the previous years?
- In the recent years, we have paid serious attention to the development of all the kinds of agricultural production, and modern irrigation systems are needed to ensure the implementation of all the relevant programs. And we are working in this direction. Last year, we used experimental drip system for tobacco on 30 hectares of land. This year, we have managed to cultivate 100 hectares for tobacco via such an irrigation modality. And on 60-80 hectares of land we have employed modern irrigation systems. They are orchards, especially pomegranate gardens. By the upcoming plans, it is envisaged to increase the number to 200-300, through the state support and application of a drip irrigation system. And this approach (I mean the introduction of the latest technologies) will, surely, give the desired results. For the following years, we will implement step by step all the programs, multiplying the volumes.