ATG Boosts Ties With Major Ag Firm

ATG Boosts Ties With Major Ag Firm

February 22, 2005

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by Andranik Michaelian

Yerevan, Armenia — In a move which stands to benefit farmers in Armenia for years to come, agronomists working for the Seed Producers Support Association (SPSA), an organization founded by the California-based Armenian Technology Group (ATG), have initiated new collaboration with AGRICO, an important agricultural firm based in Amsterdam, Holland.

AGRICO concentrates on providing potato farmers with the highest quality seed available on the world market. Its primary objective in Armenia is to help support the development of Armenian agriculture, while creating a bridge between Armenian farmers and the Dutch agricultural industry. Each year, AGRICO exports 800-1,200 metric tons of seed potato to Armenia, as well as fertilizers, pesticides, chemicals, and other agricultural items.

According to Korion Hovakimyan, who heads AGRICO’s Yerevan office, the organization plans to further coordinate its activities with SPSA agronomists and ATG’s Yerevan office, ATG Foundation (ATGF). “With the ever-changing world market, our cooperation becomes even more vital,” he said. “Our coordinated efforts in the production of high quality seed, both potato and wheat, are important for the progress of Armenia’s farmers.”

In a 1999 project funded by International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), a strong working relationship was established between farming professionals at ATG and AGRICO. As part of the program, ATG was responsible for the distribution of 22 metric tons of seed potato obtained through the efforts of AGRICO, which coordinated the project with ATG agronomists. Gagik Mkrtchyan, who directed the distribution of the seed potato for ATG, credits the close cooperation of the two organizations for the success of the program. “They are a solid company, one we can trust,” he said. “By working together on this program, the results for Armenia’s farmers were outstanding. One thousand seventy metric tons of potatoes were produced that year.”

Mutual goals create bond

The Seed Producers Support Association, founded in 1998, gained new momentum in 2004 in their effort to fulfill ATG’s goal of producing high quality wheat seed and making the seed available to farmers throughout Armenia. Gagik Mkrtchyan, executive director of SPSA, explained how collaboration with AGRICO will help both organizations attain their goals: “Reasons are two-fold for our cooperation,” Mkrtchyan said. “First, now that the two organizations have farmers growing both wheat and potatoes, it is important to offer the best varieties of each. Second, our purchasing power will increase, making fertilizers and other farming goods less expensive.”

In wheat and potato farming, crop rotation plays a key role in maintaining high quality seed and consistently high harvests. SPSA director of operations Armen Asatryan, in noting the necessity of crop rotation, points to the successes SPSA and AGRICO have had in promoting proper cultivation practices: “When growing for seed, a crop shouldn’t be planted for more than two consecutive seasons,” Asatryan said. “By offering farmers good seed, they are ready to rotate their crops in a timely manner.”

In Medz Parni, a village near Spitak in the northern Armenian province of Lori, Khachik Voskanyan has grown wheat for ATG since 1994, when he participated in the planting of 3,000 metric tons of wheat seed in a project that evolved into ATG’s well known Wheat Seed Project. Since then, Voskanyan has obtained seed potato from AGRICO to plant on crop rotation years and has developed excellent relations with AGRICO and ATG. “He is a progressive farmer who always uses the best and latest techniques,” Mkrtchyan said. “Someone we know we can depend on to produce the best seed.”

Trust, openness strengthen ties

In 2003, Voskanyan lost nearly 100 percent of his potato crop to a late hailstorm, leaving him without funds to repay his debt to AGRICO. “Without hesitation, we provided seed for the spring planting,” Hovakimyan said. “Over the years, Voskanyan has never been late repaying AGRICO. He is someone we know we can count on.”

In October 2004, when ATGF grower and agronomist Vasken Ohanyan, of Vanadzor, was unable to pay for the seed potato he had obtained from AGRICO, he gave newly-harvested wheat seed to repay his debt. “We sold the seed, which covered the debt,” Hovakimyan said. “When working with ATGF growers, we know we will never have a problem.”

Building on the growing relationship between ATG and AGRICO, long-time ATG farmer Hunan Petrosyan, of Meghrashen, a village near Artik in the province of Shirak, was accepted as an AGRICO grower in 2004. Petrosyan, now producing wheat seed for SPSA, needed high quality seed potato for crop rotation. Not acquainted with AGRICO personnel, Petrosyan approached SPSA’s Gagik Mkrtchyan, who in turn arranged a meeting with Petrosyan and AGRICO Vice President Alfred Khachatryan. “I was happy to introduce a farmer like Petrosyan, one of our best, to AGRICO,” Mkrtchyan said.

The results were outstanding. Not long before harvest, a contingent of SPSA and AGRICO personnel, along with a visiting AGRICO official from Holland and the Shirak provincial minister, paid a visit to Petrosyan’s field. “We were quite satisfied with what we saw,” Hovakimyan said. “It was easily one of the best potato fields in the region.”

Based on their successful collaboration, SPSA and AGRICO have already made arrangements for SPSA grower Hovhannes Gaboyan, also of Shirak, to obtain seed potato from AGRICO. “Without a doubt, these successes have strengthened our collaboration,” Hovakimyan said.

Cooperation creates new opportunities

The growing relationship between ATG and AGRICO has proved beneficial to both. “Now that we have mutual farmers raising both wheat and potatoes, we need more agricultural supplies than in the past,” Hovakimyan said. “We are working with the Dutch Agricultural Bank to get low-interest loans to buy larger quantities of fertilizers and pesticides. This will help our farmers tremendously.”

In Tashir, AGRICO has built computerized stables and set up milk containers and a cheese production plant, in a project known as “Dairyan.” “With ATG’s proposed Central Diagnostic Laboratory system, which tests for diseases that pass from animals to humans through the food chain, our cooperation becomes vital,” Hovakimyan said.

Seeking new areas of collaboration, AGRICO plans to provide seed potato to SPSA, which in turn will distribute the seed to AGRICO growers, while overseeing the cultivation of the potatoes. “We appreciate SPSA’s high level of professionalism,” Hovakimyan said. “We know the results will be excellent.”

Each year in Armenia, 100,000 hectares of wheat are planted for the production of seed and flour, and for use by individual families. The importance of supplying farmers with good seed is enormous. As ATG helped save the country from famine in 1994, and during drought year of 2000, the same seed growers who are members of SPSA, are now providing farmers in regions across Armenia with the best wheat seed available. By bolstering their relationship with AGRICO, SPSA ensures that each of their farmers has the high quality potato seed needed for crop rotation and the proper cultivation of wheat and potatoes.

“The importance of ATG and AGRICO working together is like air and water,” Mkrtchyan said. “One’s success is needed for the other’s. Together, we can be sure the country has a steady supply of high quality wheat and potato seed.”

For more information about how you can help Armenia’s farmers, contact the ATG office at (559) 224-1000 or by e-mail ( Tax-deductible donations can be sent to ATG; 1300 E. Shaw, Suite 149; P.O.Box 5969; Fresno, CA 93755-5969.
You may also donate to ATG online.