Armenia’s Apricot Disaster
Against the darkness of night, an Armenian villager was filmed by the news service A1+ this week lighting candles around her tomato and potato seedlings. It was no occult ritual. Alina Ambardzumian was trying to protect her crops from а vicious late frost, feared by some to have wiped out most of this year's harvest.
Other farmers in the village of Ayanist also have been sticking candles around their crops, creating churchly scenes. They believe that the warmth of candlelight will save the seedlings. “We put over them four layers of cellophane and lit the candles. Now we just need to wait for what is God’s will,”Ambardzumian told A1+. “If we don’t do this, we will have nothing to eat throughout the year,” she added.
According to a local farmers’ association, Kavkazsky Uzel reports, last weekend's unseasonable blizzard has destroyed an estimated 90 percent of the apricots which are the pride-and-joy-fruit of Armenia.No official estimates of the apricot loss, or other agricultural damage is available yet, but Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has reported about entire apricot orchards frozen over in the western agricultural region of Aragatsotn.
The blizzard, which raged through Armenia for several days, also wiped out other fruit, like cherries and grapes.
Farmers now worry about both this year's ration of fruits and veggies and about repaying their bank loans. Inevitably, many angry eyes have turned to the government.
Their anger cannot easily be ignored; agriculture -- largely subsistence farming, vulnerable to the elements -- employs about 45 percent of the population, according to the Swiss Agency for Cooperation and Development.
The Ministry of Agriculture reportedly warned farmers about the impending disaster, but offered little help other than recommending the old trick of setting up bonfires near crops. Many farmers complained that they could not afford getting enough firewood to burn for several days, as the government suggested, and, instead, used candles.
The government now is considering assistance ideas, but no farmer-bailout plan has been announced yet.
Giorgi Lomsadze is a journalist based in Tbilisi, and author of Tamada Tales.
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