Armenian villagers are not happy with the rich harvest of grapes this year. Because of the economic crisis in Russia, the volume of exports of wine and cognac from Armenia have decreased. Many companies have refused to harvest grapes. As a result of many days of queues at the wine-brandy factories, tons of grapes have become unfit. Some of the farmers in a sign of the disturbance, blocked the road, the others- had to unload the damaged harvest right on the side of the road.
Viticulture is the main activity of the villagers of Kaghtsrashen in the Ararat region, which is 40km far from the capital city Yerevan. The wine factory of Kaghtsrashen is one of the few places where grapes are still accepted also from the neighbouring villages.
Serob Mkrtchyan waits for his turn to start collecting the grape harvest. Last year he sold his harvest in the village of Aygevan. However, they refused to sign a new contract this year. Half of the grapes were sold at a price of 120 AMD (around 0,24 USD) per kilo in the Aygestan village. Another 10 tons of which, Mkrtchyan hopes to sell in Kaghtsrashen. “Of course, the crisis in Russia has affected us too. However, I don’t understand why is it so, that when you sell your grapes at 150 AMD (0,31 cent) they say that there is no place to take it, but when you decrease the price to 80 AMD (0,16 USD) per kg they accept it", says Mkrtchyan.
According to the villagers, the prime cost of grapes is from 70-100 AMD (0,14-0,20 USD) per kilogram. Even last year the companies bought grapes at a price of 150 AMD (0,25 cent) per kilo, but this year they don’t even dream about this.
The Ministry of Agriculture of Armenia is trying to control the situation by negotiating with companies and offering them secured subsidized loans. The Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Garnik Petrosyan, considers the situation as "force majeure". According to him, this couldn’t be predicted. “On the one hand, the volume of the harvest has increased by 30%, while on the other hand the exports of wine and brandy have dropped double-fold”-says Petrosyan assuring that villagers will be able to sell out all of their harvest.
The queue at Kaghtsrashen’s factory is relatively quiet, as many have already acquired an agreement and are confident that the grapes will be accepted. One thing, they don’t yet know is the price, which depends on the quality and the level of sugar content of grapes. However, a few weeks ago a farmer, Andranik Movsisyan, had to stay here with a cargo for several days and pay the driver of the truck. All this happened because of the panic. As if this wasn't enough, in the meantime, also rain poured down.
Thus after taking samples for sugar content testing from Andranik’s harvest, they didn’t accept the harvest, because the percentage of sugar in grapes of the top was higher than the one of bottom. In despair, Andranik unloaded the 7 tonnes of harvest right at middle of the road, not far from the factory.
“They took the sample from the rainwater. I have asked them even to take it for 50 drams per kg, but they refused to”, says Andranik. The factory chemist Elmira Hayrapetyan says, that the difference in sugar content can be because of the fact that farmers themselves water the grape in the car or because of rains. “But anyway we take grapes, of course with lower prices”-says Elmira Hayrapetyan.
Meanwhile, Kaghtsrashen’s factory is processing harvests above the norm this year. According to the director of the factory, Avet Galstyan, this year they had to take and process almost three times more. So, if last year the factory, which produces brandy, took more than 400 tons of grapes, this year the volume is 1,919 tonnes and additional 400 tons are planned to be taken.
According to Avet Galstyan, the sales volume of the company has decreased 60-70% because of the crisis in Russia. “Winemakers are very cautious toward harvesting grapes, as they do not know what to expect, what will be the situation in Russia. As we used to calculate in US dollars, then convert it into rubles, now our product is twice more expensive in the Russian market",-says the director.
Additionally, the volume of the harvest has affected the quality of the grapes. Sugar content of grapes is 14% -16% on average this year, while the standard is 18%. However, Galstyan says, that they accept grapes to help farmers; “In the future we should solve this problem ourselves, which will influence on the price of the product.”
The 80% of factory products is sold in Russia. Another market for the company is China. However, not everything is easy, because the Chinese market is not familiar with Armenian products. "It is a long process - we need to study the market and learn how to promote Armenian products",- says Galstyan.
In the neighbouring village Aygezard, farmers are hurrying to collect the harvest, so they manage to sell it before the end of admission. Farmer Garik Sevoyan says that they will get money for the harvest only in the spring, but there is hope to get it earlier- before the New Year, if factory formalizes the loans. However, villagers, have to pay their own loans today.
Grigor Hovakimyan says, that his family of 9 members earned 750 000 AMD (around 1500$) for 5 tonnes of grapes. But for fertilizer alone, he had to pay 300 000 AMD (620$) plus 80000 (around 170$) for the irrigation from April to October. Also he must pay his loans. “We even cannot buy flour for the winter. We have three students at home and one of them has disabilities,”-says 82-year-old man.
"We will joyfully collect the grapes just not to leave it under the snow, I don’t know what' will be next "-says a resident of the village Aygezard Marietta Baghdasaryan.