Production Pride: Syunik shows off its potential at exposition

Some 50 enterprises and individual businessmen gathered in Goris last weekend for “Syunikprodexpo 2005”, an exposition organized to promote the Syunik region’s agricultural potential.

Outside the Lianna dried fruit booth, for example, expo visitors queued for a taste of fig, peach blood orange, offered by the firm’s representative Vanik Karamyan. Customers bought the fruit, some simply took the free samples, and some asked how they were prepared.

“The traditional secret of preserving the fresh taste and quality of ripe fruit was handed down in our family from generation to generation,” Karamyan told the curious. “We dry fruit in the sun, in a natural way.”

And the fruit grower-turned-pitchman was careful to add that, in Meghri, where Lianna fruit comes from, the produce “taste different”.

Karamyan has participated in similar exhibitions since 2001 (around Armenia) and has made many contacts over the years. After a similar exposition last year his sales increased by 10-15 percent.

Next to him is the Elola firm, which presents five types of cheese. The firm’s business manager Narine Arakelyan says that the event is good for raising the company’s profile. After last year’s exhibition the firm got business from Kapan and today the territory of Kapan, Meghri, Agarak is Elola’s best market, where they sell up to 40 tons of cheese a month, an increase over previous years.

Syunikprodexpo 2005 was organized by the Goris Business Assistance Center with Syunik’s Governor’s Office and Goris’ Mayor’s Office, jointly with DAI Armenia Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Markets Development Project. The project’s executive director Harry Din Kilmer says: “The exposition gives energy to businesspeople and companies. We began at a very low level, but already have amazing results.”

According to Kilmer, Armenia’s businessmen are developing fast. And their goal is to show to the local entrepreneurs how to reach international standards, which many have already achieved. Many enterprises export their products abroad and especially to CIS countries. Syunik’s main export items included bottled water, canned food, knitted wear, cheese, dried fruits.

The exposition was also a chance for Syunik Governor Suren Khachatryan to become better acquainted with the assortment of products. He promises to assist businessmen.

“The event proves that life in the region is getting more active day by day, there is progress. And it also reassures the people of Syunik to stand firm on their land. We are ready to help any entrepreneur, to stand by his side. All he [entrepreneur] should do is to submit a good project.”

According to the governor, unemployment in Syunik is 60 percent, but due to entrepreneurs it being reduced. However, the most painful side of the region remains the town of Kapan.

“Thirteen powerful plants of Kapan closed down. There is no agriculture, while it is developing in Goris, Sisian, Meghri. We should develop farms, stone production, and create jobs especially for women, extending textile production,” he says.

Armenia’s SME Market Development Project business advisor Samvel Shahbazyan notes that entrepreneurship in Syunik is rather underdeveloped, however the region has a great potential and will gradually appear in the center of attention.

“The regions situated close to Yerevan benefit from everything to a certain degree, and the remote regions are more isolated; there are not contacts. Roads were very important for Syunik, and they are repaired today, which is a great opportunity for further development of entrepreneurship,” he says.

Lyova Mejlumyan from Goris represents “Goris Alco”, “Goris Group Ltd.”, and “Goris Food Group of Enterprises” OJSCs. It is a few months since he began manufacturing “Akner” drinking water and has already received great cooperation proposals.

“Consultations received from SME give the shortest way towards success. We had thought we knew a lot, but then we understood that we knew nothing,” Mejlumyan explains.

Goris Business Assistance Center Director Nairi Shalunts attaches importance to the circumstance that the exposition strengthens and deepens the ties existing between the business centers of the region, raises their prestige and earns them recognition, as people begin to turn to them.

“The region of Syunik surely needed this expo, and it could have been organized on a larger scale, which we will do next year,” says Shalunts.