Geghetsik Sargsyan, who apart from being an engineer is known for preserving produce, says she is “unemployed” this year.
“During previous years, good Armenian housewives already had various jams and canned goods prepared by July,” says Geghetsik. “But this year everything has become so expensive that people cannot even buy a couple of kilos of fruit for their children, let alone thinking about making preserves.”
This season, the price of cherries ranges from 600-1200 drams (about $1-2) per kilo, plums at 500-600 and apricots at 700-2000 drams (depending on quality). That’s as much as 10 times higher than last year. Vegetables are two to three times higher than a year ago.
Fruits carry considerably higher prices this season
According to specialists such an unprecedented price increase is caused by several natural disasters during the spring that destroyed gardens and damaged green house crops.
“The reason is mainly the frostbite in April,” says the head of Plant Breeding Department at the Ministry of Agriculture Garnik Petrosyan. “This has been an unprecedented year, with a lot of damage, including hail damage and floods.”
Petrosyan says apricot orchards were especially hurt.
At least 5,000 of 5,300 hectares of apricot gardens existing in Armenia were frostbitten. Cherry, plum and pear gardens were damaged as well, and as a result the prices have gone up.
“This year we lost 95 percent of the apricot harvest, which is disastrous,” says Petrosyan. “As a result, there’s much less fruit now, so the prices have gone up.”
Armen, a fruit seller in the center of Yerevan says he doesn’t recall such high prices.
“There are fewer buyers,” he says. “ Armenia was famous for its sun-flavored apricots’ sweetness and quality and also for its moderateness, but this year we have become a banana republic. In a country of apricots, today bananas are cheaper. And someone who lives on a state salary or pension cannot afford such luxury.”
Petrosyan says that even though fruits have become a luxury to some degree, the situation will somewhat improve in the nearest time.
“Most of the damage was caused to gardens of Ararat and Armavir regions, but still in Kotayk, Baghramyan, Yeghvard and Ashtarak regions some kinds of fruit will only ripen in August, which will somewhat assist in prices lowering for fruit and vegetables,” he says.
However, before the specialist’s forecast comes true, there are unheard-of high prices at the capitals agricultural markets. According to fruit merchants, this year those who buy apricots are either upscale locals or tourists who want to taste the famous Armenian fruit.
According to Petrosyan, this season Armenia exported 400 tons of apricots, 1,200 tons less than last year.
“It’s been several years that apricot trees have been frostbitten because of the changes in temperature,” says Petrosyan. “There has to be a special attitude towards such crops, so that over the years we don’t waste our national symbol.”