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A New Epidemic is at Armenia’s Doorsteps

A major agricultural catastrophe is lurking in Armenia. Armenia’s centuries old grape and related industries are in danger of losing their productivity, potentially impacting the livelihood of thousands of families, while causing a major loss of export potential 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. Once a vineyard is infected by the louse, it can destroy it fairly rapidly, then spread naturally to others nearby.

In Ararat Valley, the destructive nematode appeared a couple of 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! 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. That is why we are asking for your help!

Importing and propagating plants is prohibited in Armenia without the permission of the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) -- very much like in other developing countries. Hence, at the request of the MoA, we focused our resources. With limited number of phylloxera-resistant plants, we prepared the foundation for a new grape nursery at a secluded location within our complex in Armavir.

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 year-long 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.

Your contribution will be much appreciated. The people of Armenia continue to need our support. So many of us have continued to devote time and resources to empower them! We thank you for your kindness, as always, and are ready to answer any question that you might have.

Varoujan Der Simonian
Executive Director, ATG Inc.