ArmInfo.In Armenia, the OASI (Organic Agriculture Supporting Initiative) program, initiated in January 2015 by the Austrian Development Agency in cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture, is approaching its completion.
The goal of the program is to support farmers and agribusiness to ensure the transition to organic agriculture, increase agricultural production, develop new international markets, and provide bioproducts to the local market. The initiative managed to involve 45 beneficiaries (small producers), who were assisted of various kinds, ranging from seminars to participation in international exhibitions. Representatives of the program told ArmInfo earlier that in the general structure of traditional agriculture in Armenia, the share of organic matter is only 0.01%, linking low production volumes with a lack of public awareness, in particular regarding the benefits of organic production. Although the sphere, according to experts, has a rather high potential. In order to clarify the future of organic agriculture in Armenia, given the completion of the OASI program, ArmInfo talks with the chairman of the recently established Association for the Development of Organic Agriculture of the RA, Lusine Nalbandian.
According to her, the OASI program of the Austrian Development Agency is coming to an end, and soon a new project "Green Agriculture" will start, which will cover a wider segment of the agricultural sector. <Consequently, we decided to create an association, firstly, in order not to lose the results that we managed to achieve by working with manufacturers within the OASI, and secondly, because having such an organization would simplify the solution of issues related to protecting the interests of organic producers. products, bringing together all on one site. In the end, it is easier to build a dialogue with the state if speaking on behalf of the Association, rather than of a single manufacturer, moreover, it simplifies access to the markets. On the whole, our main goal is to promote the development of the industry in Armenia,> she noted.
It has been repeatedly said that Armenia cannot compete in the international market in quantitative terms, but in terms of qualitative parameters we are not inferior to competitors. Thus, the Association will become a platform where Armenia can position itself as a manufacturer of high-quality environmentally friendly products. Therefore, beginning in April of this year, work began on the creation of the Association, and numerous meetings were held with interested parties. "Organic agriculture in our economy is considered a priority, but all this is limited so far by exceptionally beautiful words. There is no state support, moreover, we don't have a department in the Ministry that would deal exclusively with the development of this profile, which is a very big gap. Therefore, it is very good when there are various international promotional programs, but the development of organic agriculture in the country should not depend solely on international organizations, "Nalbandyan stressed.
She noted that the Association will have several industry trends. <We decided to divide the participants into groups, in accordance with the products produced, in particular honey, the collection of wild herbs, the processing and production of any other organic culture, there is a department of services, marketing and promotion that will provide services, fertilizers, means of protection, etc. d at more affordable prices for farmers. In addition, many farmers have difficulty obtaining certification. <For example, when he decides to switch to organic production, he is given a standard with which to review and draw up a management plan. For the farmer, all this is not so easy, sometimes not very clear. Therefore, we intend to provide proper advice to simplify this process. That is, in our activities we will put a very important emphasis on knowledge. This is a large-scale and versatile work that the Association has undertaken. In addition, we want to work to identify and eliminate the presence of fake organic products on the market, which I, unfortunately, have repeatedly met on the shelves of our stores, the expert said. The specialist believes that the farmer will not start the production of organic products, guided solely by the fact that organic matter belongs to the category of healthy organic food. <The farmer, of course, is thinking about income, and in this regard is absolutely right. But on the other hand, if you choose the right crop, properly organize the entire production chain, then the farmer will receive a guaranteed sale of their products at a good price. For example, the price of organic apricot is 5 times the cost of the usual. I think this is a very good indicator. Although the production of organic matter is quite a costly process, but those farmers who still take the risk, will definitely be in the lead. Sooner or later, people will come to the conclusion that it is necessary to produce what is for sale without any problems, "she said. But today the situation is different. The farmer, when choosing an agricultural crop, is guided by the price policy on the market. For example, after the increase in prices for tomatoes, the greenhouses of the farmers were filled with tomato seedlings, although our people in the winter are not particularly chasing this crop. That is, in the global sense, the main problem of agriculture in Armenia, not only organic, is the lack of agricultural planning. People are guided solely by market prices when choosing crops. <We are not able to the last link in this entire production chain to plan everything correctly. In Armenia, they prefer traditional agriculture, and often, we are not ready to do something in a new way. Today, about 120 farmers from almost all regions of Armenia, with the exception of Shirak, are engaged in organic farming. But there is another problem. We do not have a register regarding the volume of organic products, both in terms of hectares and in terms of tonnage of the crop. In fact, this is very important information for the development of the industry. We need to know and understand what we have in order to plan everything correctly, "said the expert.
Eespert believes that the demand for organics is quite high. <In particular, our organic products are exported to Europe, the United Arab Emirates, the Russian Federation, Japan, England. But at the same time, we have a problem with the diversification of eco-products. That is, basically the same products are produced in Armenia - dried fruits, tea, wild harvest, honey, juices - in general, no more than 10 items. One cannot find, for example, organic fresh vegetables, various fruits, eggs, etc. Organic matter in our country develops only in those areas that are easiest to deal with. Consequently, we have to work in the direction of expanding the range.
To increase production volumes, the correct state subsidies of the sector would help. Yes, the Ministry of Agriculture of Armenia promised to render assistance to agricultural producers of organic products, but, as they say, "to promise is not to marry". But I hope that the program will still be launched. It is not necessary to invent a bicycle. There is a good international experience that can be taken and implemented in accordance with the specifics of our country and based on the available resources, Nalbandyan stressed.