On April 13, 2021, EcoLur Press Club hosted a panel discussion on "Food Security and Climate Change", where it was discussed how climate change affects food security, the state policy in this area, and the damage caused by land degradation, disaster mitigation factors in agriculture, the state of living resources in Lake Sevan and the problems of rational land use and water use in the context of climate change.
Magda Hovhannesyan, Deputy Head of Food Security and AgroProcessing Development Department of RA Economy Ministry, Ashot Vardevanyan, Head of Division of State Cadastres, Maintenance of Registers and Monitoring of RA Environment Ministry, FAO Team Lead/National Expert on Agriculture Vahan Amirkhanyan, Director of Center for Zoology and Hydroecology of NAS RA Bardukh Gabrielyan, President of “National Water Cooperation” Ecological NGO Arzhik Hovsepyan and President of “Green Path” NGO Nune Sarukhanyan.
Welcoming the participants of the round table, UNDP Climate Change Programme Coordinator Diana Harutyunyan noted that food security, agricultural vulnerability and healthcare issues intersect under climate change, where agriculture is the most vulnerable sector; whatever is carried out in agriculture - green agriculture, subvention and subsidy programs, as well as the insurance system - these are all serious tools of adaptation," Diana Harutyunyan said.
Magda Hovhannesyan, Deputy Head of Food Security and AgroProcessing Development Department of RA Economy Ministry, noted that providing food to the population is one of the most important challenges of the 21st century. "Agriculture is the first of the three priorities in our government's programs," she said.
According to the speaker, agriculture and agro-processing industry, which are the most important branches of the country's economy, providing food to the population of Armenia, have averaged about 13% -11%, respectively, over the past five years.
The gross output of agro-processing industry in 2020 amounted to 700 billion AMD, with the share of the agro-processing industry in the gross output of the whole industry making 41.1%, and in the processing industry - 61.4%.
"In 2019, agri-food products accounted for about 30% of the country's total exports and 15.7% of imports. Exports in 2019 amounted to 796.4 million USD, an increase in about 12.5%over the previous year. There is a tendency for growth in imports. In 2019, imports amounted to 866.6 million USD, an increase in 7.1% over the previous year," she said.
According to Magda Hovhannesyan, in international practice, it is customary to define the level of food security of countries according to the Global Food Security Index, published in The Economist. The Global Food Safety Index for Armenia is not included in the 113 countries published. The index is determined according to three components: food availability, affordability, quality and security. The Ministry applied to the organizers to get the methodology for a similar calculation for Armenia, but they did not receive a response. We used the methodology available on the website for 2018-2019: we tried to calculate the index of Armenia according to those three components. Due to the coronavirus epidemic, several indicators were changed, it was in our favor, because our position improved a lot. If before we were in the 76th place (ed.: among 113 countries in total), now we are in the 48th place with 67.7 points," she said.
According to the speaker, the fact that farms in Armenia are small is worth a lot of attention, the average land cultivation is 1.4 hectares. "This creates great difficulties in terms of product sales, including exports, in terms of limited logistics infrastructure, as well as our farms experience a lot of problems because of finding export partners," she said.
Importing agro-food products, replacing them with local production, encouraging and supporting their local production are among the primary strategic tasks of the Government of the Republic of Armenia. The ministry has started working on a new program, the measures of which will be aimed at better ensuring our food security, will grant an opportunity to raise all the existing problems, solve them, conduct policies so that these problems become fewer. According to Magda Hovhannesyan, it is a big problem that currently 49.8% of the lands in Armenia are cultivated, and 50.2% remain uncultivated.
In order to solve the problem, RA Economy Ministry has developed a concept and a program of measures to increase the efficiency of agricultural land use in order to put those arable lands into circulation and increase the volume of agricultural arable lands. It will be possible to enlarge these arable lands, to use them to solve the problem of food security thoroughly. "If they are not developed for three years, it is proposed to be rented and developed by the state," she said.
EcoLur Expert Victoria Burnazyan inquired whether the impact and consequences of climate change were considered in policy-making. In response, Magda Hovhannesyan mentioned that there is a factor in their current activities, which is included in the strategic actions.
Rosa Julhakyan, an EcoLur Expert, said some of the bread and wheat supplied to the country's army were processed in areas currently under Azerbaijani control. "Has it been calculated how much it owed? What steps have been taken or should be taken to maintain the disturbed balance?" she asked. Magda Hovhannesyan noted that it was included in the balance sheet, and steps are currently being taken to restore the reserves.
Inga Zarafyan, President of "EcoLur" Informational NGO, suggested the participants of the discussion to offer specific priorities for the settlement of the food security issue. Magda Hovhannesyan mentioned that the ministry implements programs aimed at preventing this or that problem. And she suggested enlarging the lands as a priority. Arevik Hovsepyan mentioned that the priority is the solution to the shortage of irrigation water. Diana Harutyunyan said that the biggest priority should be the diversification of taxation related to economic mechanisms, whether or not to use land.
April 22, 2021 at 15:28