Minister Karapetyan, Deputy Minister Terteryan, Governor Grigoryan, valued partners and guests; it is my pleasure to be here today to celebrate the opening of the new Farm and Veterinary Service Center here in beautiful Vardenis.
The U.S. government is committed to partnering with all economic sectors of Armenia. And the agriculture sector is one of the most vital and important economic sectors in the country. We at the Embassy, mostly through our USAID programs, are committed to working with Armenian farmers and livestock owners to ensure they have the tools they need to compete and prosper in the local and regional agriculture markets. Together we can help stimulate economic growth and create a better life for those living in Armenia’s many rural communities.
We cannot forget that one of Armenia’s largest engines of economic growth is out here in rural communities like Vardenis. This year, for example, the volume of agricultural output in Armenia grew 15%. The number of cattle in Gegharkunik alone has increased by more than 5,000 head over the past year. Furthermore, the gross domestic product (GDP) growth in Armenia accelerated to 4% in the first half of 2015, driven mostly by agriculture.
That is why this month, the Embassy will focus its efforts on highlighting the many ways we partner with the Ministry of Agriculture, Armenian farmers, local officials, and others to help grow the economy in rural Armenia. As a partner to rural Armenia, we are there to provide the skills, knowledge, tools, and resources that hard-working Armenian farmers need to provide food locally and to compete in the local and regional markets.
Nevertheless, we realize a number of challenges continue to hinder the sector’s growth. Some rural areas have no access to local and regional markets, employment and incomes are low, and options for business expansion are poor. That is why the United States, through USAID, works to promote rural entrepreneurship, to facilitate market access, and to develop local partnerships. Our goal is that Armenians living in rural villages have incentives to stay and work in their own communities. Using the knowledge gained at this service center, we hope to see farmers enhance their professional skills, expand their operations, and become more future-oriented.
This new Farm and Veterinary Service Center is the second such specialized center we have opened in Gegharkunik. Similar to the center in Hayravank, which was launched last week, this center will share the latest farm business techniques with local veterinarians, farmers, and agricultural businesses. The center’s training programs will aid about 2,000 farmers from seven nearby villages including Vardenis. And it will provide access to financial services and at least 250 loans to farmers and rural enterprises, allowing them to expand their equipment base and increase production.
And this effort, like all our work here in Armenia, is a true partnership. Minister Karapetyan, on behalf of the U.S. Government, I would like to thank you for the Ministry’s support in this important rural development project. We also recognize the commitment of our partner for the project – the Center for Agribusiness and Rural Development (CARD) – in making this center a reality.
I encourage the local farmers and businesses to make most of the services and assistance that will be provided by the center and wish you all success and prosperity. Thank you.