People lined up outside a bakery in Stepanakert.

YEREVAN (Azatutyun) — Authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh have decided to ration bread in the capital Stepanakert to cope with a serious shortage of flour resulting from Azerbaijan’s nine-month blockade of the Lachin corridor.

They began handing out Monday ration stamps to residents of the town which is home to roughly half of Karabakh’s estimated population of 120,000. Starting from Tuesday, every Stepanakert resident will be able to buy only half a loaf of bread weighing 200 grams.

Bread has become an even more important staple food in Stepanakert and other Karabakh towns since Azerbaijan tightened the blockade in mid-June by halting all relief supplies to the Armenian-populated region carried out by Russian peacekeepers and the International Committee of the Red Cross. Local food stores have run out of most other basic foodstuffs rationed since January.

The bread shortage worsened at the end of August, with locals spending more hours waiting in lines to buy up to two loaves per person from bakeries.

Karabakh’s Agricultural Support Fund again urged local farmers at the weekend to sell off their wheat stocks and thus help alleviate the deficit. The fund set a higher price — 250 drams per kilogram (65 US cents) — and offered other incentives in hopes of buying more wheat grown by them.

By comparison, the market-based wholesale price of wheat in Armenia currently stands at less than 100 drams per kilogram.

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“Dear farmers, please … sell the stored wheat to the fund so that we can together overcome the existing crisis as soon as possible,” the public agency said in a statement. “The struggle is not only war, this is also a struggle from which we can emerge victorious only thanks to our unity.”

The humanitarian crisis has prompted serious concern from the United States, the European Union and other international actors. As well as insisting on the immediate reopening of the Lachin corridor, the Western powers have implicitly urged Karabakh to agree to another, Azerbaijani-controlled supply route sought by Baku.

Most Karabakh Armenians appear to remain strongly opposed to that route. Scores of them have been blocking a road leading to the Azerbaijani town of Aghdam to prevent two Azerbaijani trucks loaded with 40 tons of flour from entering Karabakh. They as well as the authorities in Stepanakert believe that the proposed aid is a publicity stunt aimed at legitimizing the blockade and helping Azerbaijan regain full control over Karabakh.

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