By Gayane Mkrtchyan
seller to re-seller, night market merchants
provide the produce for day-time buyers.
As Gohar Hambardzumyan talks, the cracked skin
of her hands catches the attention and provides
evidence of the harshness of her work. Sun beams
make perfect ornaments of the wrinkles that line
her face and the bright blush of her cheeks can
not distract from the tiredness in her 38-year-old
Gohar travels to Echmiadzin market to sell paprikas
that she has grown at her home in Haykashen village
in Armavir region. The daytime trade at Echmiadzin
gradually gives way each evening to the night
market, where growers sell their goods mainly
Gohar is selling paprikas at eight for 100 drams
from four sacks at her feet. She says with discontent
in her voice: "Sometimes I spend all night
here, sometimes I get so fed up that I sell everything
for a song and leave.
"I am so tired of this trade and of cultivating
the soil. I make nothing after paying for water
and land. I do this just to survive."
Traffic gradually builds as villagers hurry to
the market after 6 p.m. in cars laden with goods
from the Ararat Valley. Re-sellers become customers
for a few hours to get the goods that they will
sell next morning.
Fruits and vegetables grown under the hot Armenian
sun seduce customers. Apricots, peaches, cherries,
apples, melons, water-melons, cucumber, tomatoes
all contribute intense colors like a palette of
Khachik, 40, from Garni village in Kotayk region,
arrives in a Volga car loaded with cherry boxes.
As he unpacks them, he says: "At the beginning
of July, I sold one kilo for 500-600 drams, but
today I sell for 300 drams. I have brought 200
kilos and will finish selling around 1 a.m.
"To tell the truth, it is profitable work.
I don't sell in the daytime because I would hardly
manage to gather all of this together with my
brother's family in time to bring it here at night."
Traders at the night market pay 1,000 drams ($1.75)
if they sell from a vehicle and 500 drams if they
have no car. The air is punctuated with calls
of "tasty coffee" and "hot pastries"
as middle-aged women walk the market selling from
trays to keep traders' spirits up.
Although it is mid-summer, and harvests are reaching
their peak, prices on the market remain high.
While apricots for preserving have sold for as
little as 50 drams at this time in previous years,
now it is 250 drams.
Zhora Hakobyan from Aknashen village explains:
"This year the apricot harvest was not good
in every place but in some places it was so good
all the harvest couldn't be taken. This has created
Hakobyan says people in their apricot orchards
work collectively and receive 2,000 drams for
a full day's work, or 10 drams per kilo part-time.
Margarita Vardanyan, 48, from Jrashen village
in Artashat region, has gathered the first harvest
this summer from her six-year-old apricot orchard.
"We gathered 1.5 tons from one hectare of
orchard. Some businessmen came and paid a preliminary
price of 300 drams per kilo before the apricots
Her 52-year-old husband Eduard Vardanyan says
their fruit is mainly exported from Armenia to
places such as Novosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk, and Moscow,
where he says businessman make big profits from
selling them, particularly in winter when prices
"The buyers were bringing groups of workers
with them to bring the fruit in on time, paying
them 3,000-5,000 drams each per day. The apricots
were immediately stored in refrigerated trucks,
where some of them will stay for five or six months,"
The Echmiadzin tinned food factory is a major
customer for many growers. Director Hamlet Avagyan
says: "This year we have canned 6-7 tons
of apricot at 220 drams per kilo, cherries at
350 drams per kilo, vine leaves at 160 drams per
kilo and roses at 450 drams per kilo. We paid
the villagers immediately."
Avagyan says the factory will can up to 15 tons
of tomatoes costing 22 drams per kilo. It employs
200 people in three shifts, earning 25,000-30,000
drams per month, and exports products to the United
States and Russia.
Igit Azroyan from Nalbandyan village of Armavir
region has had contracts to supply cucumbers to
the factory for two years. He says: "This
is a better option than selling to re-sellers
at a market."
Hakobyan and his wife Gyulnara prefer retailing
to cultivation. He says: "We have 4,400 meters
of land, but we don't cultivate it for sale. We
buy produce in our village and at Echmiadzin market
and sell it in Yerevan. Work is easy, profit is
Gyulnara says one sack of fertilizer costs 6,000
drams. In addition to seeds, etc., those growing
cucumber, tomatoes and paprika in hothouses have
to pay for peat, oil-cloth and electricity.
"Last year we weren't able to cover even
our oil-cloth costs and so we decided to start
re-selling," she says.