Epidemic Threatens Armenia’s Grape Harvest
FRESNO – A major agricultural catastrophe is lurking in Armenia, reports the Fresno-based Armenian Technology Group, Inc.
Armenia’s centuries old grape and related industries are in danger of losing their productivity, potentially impacting the livelihood of thousands of families and causing a major loss of export potentials and income to the entire country.
Armenia’s Ararat Valley — where the vineyards date back to the biblical times — is infected by the phylloxera nematode, a microscopic louse that attacks the roots of grape vines. The infestation is severely diminishing the grape-root system’s ability to absorb needed water and nutrients to sustain the vine.
“Phylloxera is the nemesis of the grape industry,” said ATG Executive Director Varoujan Der Simonian. “Once a vineyard is infected by the louse, it can destroy it fairly rapidly, and then spread naturally to others nearby.”
In Ararat Valley, the destructive nematode appeared few years ago, in a small family vineyard. The locals considered it as a single incident, ripped up and burned the vines and thought that would control the disease. However, similar to the Europeans’ in the early 1900’s, their attempt to eradicate the louse failed!
As of December 2014, phylloxera has already spread to a 40 mile radius, and infected at least eight different vineyards located in the Armavir region. Based on data obtained from the Ministry of Agriculture in Armenia, it has been identified in vineyards in Aghavnatoun, Arevadem, Aygek, Artamed, Kayi, Norapat, Noraket and Mayisian villages.
If the spread of the disease continues at its current pace, within the next 5 to 10 years, farmers in Armenia might lose all their vines, be forced to rip them out and replant their vineyards with new phylloxera-resistant vines.
Importing and propagating plants is prohibited in Armenia without the permission of the Ministry of Agriculture — very much like in other developing countries.
On January 30, Agriculture Minister Sergio Karapetyan said, “Armenia must develop phylloxera-resistant plants.”
“We are exploring the options with the [Ministry of Agriculture], to prepare the foundation for a phylloxera-resistant grape nursery at a secluded location,” said Der Simonian. “It is not possible to clear the fields from the louse. Farmers cannot fight this epidemic alone; we have to supply them with phylloxera-resistant plants to help them rejuvenate their vineyards.”
The livelihoods of thousands of already stressed farm families in Armenia are at high risk of being ruined. These farmers are the ones who work hard yearlong to supply grapes to the centuries-old Armenian wine and cognac [brandy] industries. As a result, these income-generating producers and exporters are also on the verge of not only environmental, but also economic collapse.
ATG is soliciting contributions for this purpose. Tax-deductible contributions could be mailed to ATG P.O. Box 5969, Fresno, CA 93755.