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Armenia workshop finds organic agriculture safeguards country’s rural livelihoods and environment

Industry has potential to grow domestic and export markets

 

Yerevan, Armenia, 14 March 2014 - Developing the organic agriculture market in Armenia could create new economic opportunities as well as safeguard rural livelihoods and the environment, if further steps are taken to scale up the industry and strengthen its value chain, according to an experts' workshop held earlier this month.

More than 60 per cent of the land in Armenia is used for agriculture, and it provides 20 per cent of the country’s total GDP. However, agriculture takes place on about 340,000 small, privately owned farms, which have limited access to machinery and marketing.

The country has over 30 organic crop varieties, consisting mainly of fruit, berries, vegetables, cereals, and a wild collection of crops and greens. While it exports more than 150 tonnes of organic products annually, the industry has an opportunity to grow its exports as well as develop a larger domestic market for these natural-based products.

Recognizing the economic and environmental benefits of the industry, the Ministry of Agriculture has included organic agriculture in its strategic development plan.

"The Ministry of Agriculture aims at creating a better environment and legal framework to promote development of organic agriculture in Armenia," said Deputy Minister of Agriculture Armen Harutyunyan, who attended the workshop. "It is one of the priorities of the Ministry, which could contribute to the improvement of the livelihood in rural communities and increase incomes of farmers.” 

The workshop, which was attended by 35 representatives from the government, private sector, the national certification body and organic producers and agricultural associations, confirmed that organic products in Armenia can be sold in some cases at double the price of conventional produce.

"It is surprising that so many of the organic herbs and fruits are collected from the wild. These natural products have a huge potential to be promoted in the international organic food and cosmetics market," said Bo van Elzakker, a consultant with the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM). 

The one-day experts' workshop helped identify areas that could open up export opportunities to companies, farms and producers, and confirmed this sector has a key role to play in greening the country's agriculture sector.

Note to editors:

The Organic Agriculture project is part of a wider programme entitled “Greening Economies in the Eastern Neighbourhood (EaP-GREEN)”, financed by the European Commission and implemented jointly among UNEP, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).

The organic food and agriculture component of EaP-GREEN, implemented by UNEP, aims to provide support to Armenia, Moldova and Ukraine for enhancing their capacity for production and trade in organic products. The activities and lessons learned will be shared and transferred to the organic sectors in Azerbaijan, Belarus and Georgia.

For more information:

Please contact: Leigh Ann Hurt, Communications, Green Economy Initiative Tel. +41-22-917-8766, email: leigh-ann.hurt@unep.org.

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