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Armenian GDP Growth Continues Despite Lagging Agriculture

High growth levels in Armenia's industrial sector have compensated for a poor harvest season.
YEREVAN -- Armenia's economic growth this year continues despite a slump in agricultural production, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Growth in Armenia for the first six months of 2010 was 6.7 percent according to government statistics released on July 20. The reported growth rate was down from the 8.8 percent registered by the National Statistics Service through May.

The country's economic recovery this year had progressively accelerated since January when the gross domestic product (GDP) was reported to have risen by 2.2 percent year-on-year.

The Statistics Service data show that first-half growth was dragged down by a 13 percent drop in agricultural output, which generated almost 10 percent of GDP during the six-month period.

Much of the loss recorded in June is accorded to an early March cold snap and an unusually rainy spring that inflicted heavy damage on Armenian farm output and greatly increased the price of fruits and vegetables.

Yet the agricultural crisis was more than offset by a 12.3 percent rise in industrial output, the single-largest contributor to first-half GDP. That was, in turn, driven by rallying international prices of copper and other nonferrous metals, Armenia's most important exports.

Growth in other major sectors of the economy, notably services and construction, was more modest. The construction sector, for example, expanded by 4.1 percent after more than a year of sharp declines -- the main reason the economy contracted by 14.2 percent in 2009.

Finance Minister Tigran Davtian told journalists last month that economic growth is a "stable trend." He predicted a full-year growth rate of at least 7 percent.

Vartan Bostanjian, a deputy chairman of the Armenian parliament's committee on economic issues, sounded a more cautious note on July 20. "There is a positive trend showing that we are not in a situation where we were last year," he said.

Hrant Bagratian, a former prime minister and senior member of the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), was more skeptical, questioning the credibility of the official macroeconomic figures. "The economy remains in a serious crisis," Bagratian told RFE/RL. "The crisis is continuing."