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Armenia’s Government Will Not Cover Winery’s Debt to Grape Farmers

Armenia’s government will not cover Vinar winery’s debt to the grape farmers from the village of Kaghtrashen because it would set a bad precedent of paying money instead of private owners, prime minister Karen Karapetyan announced in a news conference today, responding to reporter Ashot Aghababyan’s following remark: “Vinar owes Kaghtrashen farmers 185 mln drams, while in the recent period the company has exported 40 thousand bottles of wine to China. Why isn’t this issue being addressed?”

The prime minister then insisted that he is not obligated to know all the details of the issue, but he does, because it has caused a lot of public uproar. “You are saying [Vinar] has exported wine to China [and still did not pay the farmers’ money]; rest assured that no one in the government wants Vinar to pocket the money and not give it to the villagers,” Karapetyan continued.

Speaking to Epress.am today, grape farmer Zakar Petrosyan said village administration officials asked the farmers at the end of last year to submit their bank accounts and the receipts they have been given by the winery’s procurement office to begin the process of debt repayment.

“Nevertheless, not everyone has received their money; there are people who have been given some part of it, others haven’t been given anything at all,” Petrosyan told our reporter, adding that in the past the farmers wrote a letter to the prime minister, which, however, has gone unanswered.

According to the speaker, during their last meeting with agriculture minister Ignati Arakelyan, the official hinted that the villagers were to “demand their money from those whom they have given their grapes to.”

Kaghtrashen village head Valerik Gyulamiryan, for his part, claimed that the ministry of agriculture and the regional administration of Ararat province is overseeing the repayment process; “As far as I know, [ministry officials] have taken and sold Vinar’s alcohol and are now paying the villagers’ money.” The village head, however, was unable to say when the farmers would receive full repayment.

Note, grape farmers from the village of Kaghtrashen in Armenia’s Ararat province – who after an unusually rich harvest in the fall of 2015 had to sell their grapes to the local Vinar winery for as little as 40 drams per kilogram – have fruitlessly been fighting for over a year and staging numerous demonstrations outside government offices in Yerevan to get the winery to pay for the procured produce.