ArmInfo.The fishing industry in Armenia after the decline in revenue from 2014 to 2016 began to recover only in 2017, increasing turnover by 9.8%. In 2018, the growth rate of gross output of the Armenian fishery sharply accelerated to 26.2%, ensuring revenues in the amount of 36.6 billion AMD.
Despite the positive trends recorded in the country's statistical data, fish farms still face problems raised by the Union of Fish Farmers of Armenia, however their reports, according to its chairman, have not been considered by the authorities so far.
The organization has been operating in the country for more than 10 years, but for the recent two years it has been conducting activities, guided by a new strategy, which, in particular, implies a change in the format of work. Such innovations, according to the head of the Union of Fish Farmers of Armenia, are in no way connected with the velvet revolution, but have become a necessary measure to ensure that the work of the organization remains efficient. The head of the Union, Artur Atoyan, in conversation with ArmInfo's correspondent tells about the reasons for such changes and the problems that local fish farmers face.
-Mr. Atoyan, could you tell in more detail what is the basis of innovations in the activities of the organizations you are talking about, and what caused the need to develop a new strategy?
The Union' strategy, in fact, has changed a lot. From now on, we provide professional assistance, in particular, free consulting and legal services, only if we are asked for help, while earlier, seeing certain risks, we beat our breasts, warned, offered our solutions. There have been even situations when our proposals were submitted to the government without any mention of us. And now for already 2 years we have changed the format of activity. Now we feel that our status is more tangible. We are ready to cooperate with all who need our help. But at the same time, the Union of Fish Farmers does not cooperate with donors, does not participate in any grant programs, because we should respect ourselves and not be influenced by sponsors. After all, by and large, grant programs make abandon own interests, business interests and even the country.
-But the power has changed, and today we live in the conditions of a new reality
In fact, today's government is committed to the people and is trying to implement measures aimed at democratic change. But how they succeed in this depends, among other things, on us - how much we will help to fulfill all these goals. Nevertheless, I must say that the current government, after all, has inherited certain features of the previous authorities. For example, the style of response to written appeals that do not give the problem a solution. Being also the chairman of the Union for Consumers and Producers' Rights Protection, I sent a written appeal regarding the settlement of the issue of providing water to 22 citizens living in one of the elite houses, which, by the way, are included in the development program of Yerevan.
For the past 7 months, 4 departments, including the Ministry of Energy, Yerevan Municipality, the State Committee for Water Management, cannot resolve this issue by transferring papers from one department to another, in other words, "palming off" the problem to each other, which resembles a vicious cycle.
- Has the nature of the problems at fish farms changed in 10 years of activity of your organization?
The fact is that today the problems of fish farmers are solved by the communist method, that is, they are not solved at all. Those, who carried the consequences of these problems <acquired immunity> and stood up in these conditions. And in today's realities, the problems were independently solved. Most of them have become somewhat safe for fish producers. In particular, "immunity" increased with an increase in the market price of fish, which was a consequence of European sanctions against the Russian Federation and tense economic relations with Turkey. Since our main competitor in the Russian market is European and Turkish manufacturers. When they dropped out of the Russian market, all the problems that were in the sphere of fish farms in Armenia became solvable. Since the business has become profitable.
However, this can have a short-term effect..
Yes, that's why I made a statement about the need to diversify markets for fish products. Today, we export about 80% of production, and only 20% are consumed in the domestic market. And about 90% of the export of fish and fish products of Armenia is supplied to the Russian Federation. And here it should be noted that Armenian fish products are always in high demand there. Even with an increase in production, fish farms should not worry about marketing, since there are no problems with the sale of products and they are not expected. Although, by and large, this is a myth, because we depend on one market, and naturally this contains high risks. After all, if there are any problems with the Russian side, then we will face a situation that took place from 2014 to 2016 - which means liquidation prices, the collapse of fish farms, etc.
-How, by the way, does the situation develop with fish farms today? Is their number growing?
Today 120 fish farms operate in Armenia. You know, their number simply cannot increase, since the Ministry of Nature Protection does not provide new permits for water use. Production volumes are increasing, but not the number of fish farmers. And this is quite a profitable area, and there is a high interest in this industry.
For example, today, due to past minor shortcomings and mistakes, the Ministry of Nature Protection deprived 4 large enterprises of water use licenses that could attract several million dollars in investments in the RA economy and open from 20 to 80 jobs. And the National Water Council does not provide new permits. I think the problem, by and large, lies in the fact that the National Council does not include a person representing the business sector. And for about 4 months, the government is as silent as a grave.
- And what about production volumes?
As I have noted, production is growing. But, taking into account the experience of the previous authorities, fish farmers sometimes do not want to declare their income, because earlier, with an increase in revenue, the government forced them to make some investments, introduce new technologies, etc.
- Mr. Atoyan, nevertheless, let's return to the issue of diversification of sales markets, what is your assessment? Where should we direct production? Where do you see the potential of unrealized opportunities?
First of all, in order to enter new markets, it is necessary to ensure the representativeness of products and increase their recognition. In many countries we are not known. We are not representative. Although our fish has good taste and is competitive. Therefore, it is necessary to carry out work in this direction in cooperation with government agencies, in the first place. In particular, it is necessary to establish an appropriate working group.
Officials participate in various international symposia, gatherings, meetings, but all this is in vain, since we continue to remain in a closed information environment. And in part, it is even good that the agricultural department has forgotten about us, because when they remember, they come up with illogical and meaningless proposals. Today the fish farmer himself solves his own problems.