NKR agriculture: Achievements, problems, prospects

Azat Artsakh – Republic of Nagorno Karabakh (NKR)
April 27, 2004


Declaring its independence and winning the war, the Republic of
Nagorni Karabakh faced another difficult problem: restoration of the
economy of the country adjusting it to the rules of the market
relationships and achieving tangible results in improving the quality
of life of the population. DATA ON NEAR PAST: in the Soviet years the
autonomous region of Nagorni Karabakh was a rather developed agrarian
region, which supplied raw material. It was developed to such a level
that was the main supplier of grapes, meat and dairy products to
Azerbaijan, naturally with a large net of factories of fabrication of
wine, meat and dairy products. The following are data provided by the
NKR Ministry of Agriculture. The highest rate of productivity of
vineyards was reported in 1980 and 1984: 123.2 and 121.2 centners per
hectare (total volume of harvest was 137 981 tons from 10 954
hectares; 164 227 tons from 13 600 hectares). The harvest was good in
1981-1982 as well (116.4 and 113.8 centners per hectare); in 1976,
1977, 1979 respectively 104.1, 104.8 and 103.4 centners per hectare.
In the postwar years the highest rate of productivity was reported in
2000: 42.4 centners per hectare. According to the data of the NKR
Ministry of Agriculture, in 1985 only through artificial insemination
97 500 head livestock, 282 100 sheep, 93 600 pigs, 575 000 poultry
were bred. Against 1985 in 1993 the number of cattle livestock reduced
by 72 percent, sheep 92 percent, pigs 92 percent; the amount of
poultry and beehives also reduced steeply. In the same period the
production of meat dropped 6.7 times, milk 6.4 times, eggs 83 times.
The situation was comparatively better in the sphere of grain
production. The success of the past two years are almost close to the
highest rates of the last years of the Soviet Union; in 2003 about
85.2 thousand tons of grain was produced in the republic (the
productivity per hectare was 21.2 centners), and in 1988 107.8
thousand tons was produced (productivity per hectare was 27.3
centners). For the government of the newly established republic it was
clear that the development of the country’s economy should be related
to the development of agriculture. The ministry of agriculture was
established on the very first days and was meant to work out strategic
and tactical programs of development of agriculture. LAND FOR THE
FARMERS: The privatization of land was the first strategic
agricultural problem in NKR. And again the same problem occurred: is
the farmer able to work the land alone or is it better to do it
cooperatively? The problems, which occurred in the process of
privatization, were and are discussed in the newspapers. In this
article we wish to speak about the success achieved in the past ten
years. To know what the possibilities the agricultural ministry are to
support the farmer and which branches of agriculture will become
priority, we talked to the NKR minister of agriculture Benik
According to the NKR minister of agriculture Benik Bakhshiyan,
privatization of land in Artsakh without the consideration of the
level of development of the region has become an obstacle for the
development of the country’s agriculture. The situation is that land
privatization in Artsakh, as well as in entire Armenia, according to
the minister, was carried out according to the model of Ararat
valley. This region noted for developed viticulture, vegetable
orcharding, with a large irrigation system (confer irrigated land of
Karabakh total 5 percent of the farming land), and what is more
important, the large consumption market of agricultural products
capital city Yerevan is near. In Artsakh there is no efficient system
of irrigation channels, processing factories, in other words
conditions for formation of stable market. According to the minister,
it will take Karabakh time to reach the level of Ararat valley. “It
was not sufficiently studied whether this model of privatization could
be used in Karabakh. In Soviet years we had well-developed complex
cattle breeding. During the war and in the postwar years the situation
changed. If in those times 90 and more percent of products of cattle
breeding was put to market, now despite the absence of statistical
data, production of cattle-breeding products does not exceed 50
percent. Today there are 50 thousand head of cattle. However, almost
there is no production of fodder. And to develop cattle breeding it is
necessary to establish production of at least 30 percent at
home. Mountain sides with growing perennial plants supplied fodder at
the same time preventing erosion of land. Now these lands are
seriously endangered as every year these lands are put under crop. And
all this is the consequence of wrong privatization plan.” “KARABAKH
that the people of Karabakh are lazy. Therefore, there is an opinion
that there is no local production in the market. According to the
minister, this opinion is wrong. “Simply our market has not been
accomplished yet because of the lack of processing factories. The
farmers in Armenia sell 90 percent of their production at a low price
to the food factories and the remaining 10 percent sell at higher
prices in the market. As the Karabakh farmer does not have the
opportunity of large consumer market, he is compelled to produce as
much as there is demand in the market. And investing labour for a
small amount of production is not profitable. As soon as we do not
have production of tomato paste, local tomatoes will not be cheaper
from the tomatoes imported from Armenia. This year 7000 tons of grapes
was produced. This cannot be consumed by the population, but as there
is already production of vodka and wine, almost the entire harvest is
sold to the factory.” In reference to the question of opening food
factories the minister said, “The government is not to take such steps
but through legislation, finance, loaning and tax policies it favours
development of such productions. There are already facts: factories of
wine, vodka, dairy products, canned food, flour operate in the
republic. Although the volumes are not big.” CONSOLIDATION OF FARMS
WILL SOON OR LATE START IN KARABAKH: This is the opinion of the
minister of agriculture. According to him, production of grain has
moved to vast territories of liberated regions. This was not done in a
regulated manner. According to the minister, it would be better for
the landowners to unite in partnerships and become
shareholders. Although, on the other hand, the possibilities of each
of them should not be restricted. In this self-organization of private
farms the minister ascribes a core function to the local
governments. According to him, a guarantee for development of
agriculture is, in his opinion, cooperation of small farmers in larger
organizations with the principle of common interests. PROGRESS IS
that there are no few small and big rivers in Karabakh but the harvest
of grain suffered from drought. According to the data of the NKR
Ministry of Agriculture the irrigated land totals 5 percent of farming
land in the republic. What does the government undertake to expand
irrigated farming land, to aid the farmer and generally to promote the
development of agriculture? In answer the minister of agriculture
said, “for developing the irrigation system of channels large
investments are required. The financial situation of our country does
not enable us to solve such problems. Nevertheless, the authorities
do everything possible to have as much land irrigated as possible. In
the past ten years the government funded the construction of the
channels Khachen-Martakert and Khachen -Khramort, repaired old
channels and artesian springs. Certain privileges were granted to
those who use land irrigated with artesian waters (14 drams for
electric power instead 25 drams). Investments are made in the sphere
of cattle breeding and protection of plants. Loans are granted in
almost all the branches of agriculture, especially for the development
of wine-growing. In the past two years the Foundation for Small and
Medium-size Business attached to the government was established which
allows to regulate the procedure of loaning. As distinct from the
previous years the foundation (for subjective and objective reasons
from 1998-2000 there remains 1.2 US dollars of loans to be repaid)
provides the loans through the bank, which allows controlling the
procedure of their repayment. By the way, the bank gives preference to
those who have the opportunity of mortgaging. It should be mentioned
that all these actions favoured the growth of gross agricultural
output. Nevertheless, the progress in the sphere of agriculture is
rather quantitative than qualitative. Although in the last years
there was also qualitative progress. I mean in the sphere of
consolidation of agricultural product producers, development of
wine-growing, acquirement of new agricultural machinery without which
it is not possible to expect serious progress in agriculture.”