Armenia

FAO/GIEWS - Foodcrops & Shortages 11/99 - Armenia

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The 1999 grain harvest is forecast to fall to 270 000 tonnes from 326 000 tonnes in 1998. The area sown to winter wheat declined sharply reflecting mainly import competition from cheaper Russian grain in the wake of the rouble devaluation in 1998, as well as below normal autumn and winter precipitation. Increased spring plantings were not sufficient to compensate the reduced winter grain area and spring conditions were not good in some areas. In 1999/2000 the cereal import requirement is estimated to increase to nearly 400 000 tonnes. Against this requirement food aid pledges of roughly 73 000 tonnes have been made. The balance is expected to be imported commercially. However, mobilizing wheat from neighbouring countries could be more difficult (and expensive) in view of the poor harvests in Iran and Turkey. The country achieved positive economic growth in 1998, despite the adverse effect of the Russian financial crisis, which reduced exports, expatriate employment opportunities and remittances from abroad. Agricultural reform has resulted in a large number of small private farms, operating at low levels of productivity and facing major constraints in marketing their produce beyond rural markets. Domestic production and imports are covering the country's food needs, and per capita consumption appears to be slowly recovering from the low levels of the early nineties, but household purchasing power remains low and nearly one half of the population has officially reported incomes at or below the poverty line. Higher wheat prices will affect this group disproportionately. In total, 170 000 vulnerable people will be covered by the WFP food assistance. WFP will continue to provide relief food aid to 110 000 refugees and the most vulnerable. Assistance will also focus on community based food-for-work activities for 60 000 vulnerable people who are able to work, supporting economic and social development. The programme will have duration of three years and will be reviewed annually.