AUA ANAU Agriculture Seminar
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AUA and ANAU Hosted Public and Private Sectors at Joint Seminar on Topics of Agriculture

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YEREVAN, Armenia — On June 25, 2021, the American University of Armenia (AUA) and the Armenian National Agrarian University (ANAU) arranged a university-public-private partnership seminar on Boosting Agricultural Exports in Armenia, tackling a multitude of challenges and opportunities of the agriculture sector in Armenia. 

Attending the seminar were representatives from government, industry, academia, and organizations associated with agriculture, as well as other interest groups, faculty and students.

The topics covered in the seminar included perspectives on agricultural economics, aspects of the agricultural investment climate, local waste management, issues of value-based circular economy, and the broader national challenges and opportunities in agriculture. 

The seminar aimed to enhance awareness of the diverse aspects affecting agricultural export and initiate a dialogue among all key stakeholders. Extensive data was presented, providing insights into specific aspects of local context, especially addressing existing barriers and challenges that hinder the development of agriculture at the regional (marz) and national levels. 

Opening remarks were delivered by RA Minister of Economy Vahan Kerobyan, ANAU Rector Dr. Urutyan, and AUA President Dr. Markides, placing resounding emphasis on the importance of identifying the challenges as well as relevant and unique opportunities within agriculture and their potential impact on the sector’s development. 

The keynote speaker, Dr. Kostas Karantininis, professor at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), presented a comparative analysis of the agricultural sector of Armenia and international practices. Dr. Karantininis provided ideas and policy recommendations, underlining the importance of making institutional reforms that would restructure farming in Armenia and offer incentives for collaboration within the sector. Further, he stressed the importance of adopting strategies for technology transfer through innovative educational approaches, outreach, and training. 

Taking a local analytical perspective, the next presentation by ANAU Rector Dr. Vardan Urutyan focused on increasing land utilization and productivity as the key pillars for growing the agricultural sector in Armenia. “There is a considerable untapped potential in the Armenian agriculture and food industry for boosting agricultural exports and attracting investments,” noted the speaker, also stressing the importance of cooperatives as a driving force for sustainable and inclusive development. “Globally, there are over three million cooperatives and credit unions, representing more than one billion members. This is where Armenia lags,” he added while elaborating on the obstacles that hinder the development of cooperatives, mainly attributed to the poor understanding of cooperative identity and principles among farmers and government officials, as well as discrepancies in existing laws on cooperatives. Dr. Urutyan also argued that for Armenia to succeed in the global agricultural economy, more reliance on applied science and human capital development would be needed, along with effective dialogue among large agribusinesses, scientific institutions, and the state. 

RA Deputy Minister of Economy Arman Khojoyan presented the RA Government’s perspective on improving the agricultural sector in Armenia. He stressed the competitive advantages of the sector, such as access to high margin and premium markets, renewable and high-quality water resources, applicability of modern technologies, favorable altitude and climate (yearly average of 307 sunny days and 2,280 hours of sunshine).

Khojoyan discussed the national challenges, including the small arable plot sizes, the encumbrances of transferring land ownership, lack of or limited access to irrigation water, underdeveloped infrastructure, and limited access to agricultural credit. In that regard, he listed several programs the government currently supports in agriculture, including a subsidized loans, leasing of agricultural equipment, acquisition of purebred livestock, procurement of agricultural raw materials, targeted assistance of intensive orchards, 30-50% cashback for greenhouse farming and 50-60% cashback for agricultural insurance, as well as other types of facilitation of farming activities. 

Also speaking at the seminar was AUA College of Business and Economics (CBE) Dean Dr. Vache Gabrielyan, who presented the issues related to the investment climate. Dr. Gabrielyan noted that while the financial aspects for subsidizing agriculture follow, by and large, the same patterns as in other industries duly reflecting macroeconomic fundamentals, borrowing alone will not ameliorate the investment climate. He underlined the importance of adopting a more holistic approach to resolving the issue. “The investment climate largely depends on creating a working and enabling environment that considers structural issues, as well as size of producers, logistics, and water supplies,” he noted.

Dr. Gabrielyan concluded that the single largest impediment to the development of agriculture is the inability to cooperate among farmers to augment the size of agricultural outputs, which can only become possible through government intervention to facilitate and support such cooperation. Further, he addressed issues of irrigation management and control, suggesting proper pricing schemes that differentiate prices based on various factors, other than water usage alone by individual farms.

Director of the Acopian Center Alen Amirkhanian presented the environmental considerations in a competitive agricultural sector, emphasizing the importance of hazardous waste management and circular economy practices. While bringing the participants’ attention to the lack of infrastructure and appropriate mechanisms within the regulatory framework to better address the above-mentioned issues, he noted that efficient management of biological waste could boost the agricultural sector. “An estimated 412 million cubic meters of biogas can be produced from livestock waste. The 412 million cubic meters of biogas will be equivalent to about 20% of gas imported to Armenia annually,” he explained.

Noah of Areni LLC CEO Arsen Mkrtchyan presented insights on logistics, export, and transportation. He explained the challenges that wine cultivators and producers face throughout the stages of production. According to Mkrtchyan, the main problems for Armenian wine exporters are the costs of production that drive prices higher making their products less competitive in global markets.  

Following the stakeholders’ input, a broader discussion of key issues for consideration in reforming agricultural policy at the national level took place. AUA President Dr. Markides and ANAU Rector Dr. Urutyan discussed systemic aspects that require stakeholder collaboration to be solved. They thanked all participants and ensured that this was the first of many university-public-private seminars on transformative sectors in Armenia. The participants continued the active discussion during the reception that followed. 

Founded in 1991, the American University of Armenia (AUA) is a private, independent university located in Yerevan, Armenia, affiliated with the University of California, and accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission in the United States. AUA provides local and international students with Western-style education through top-quality undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs, promotes research and innovation, encourages civic engagement and community service, and fosters democratic values.