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June 2012

KYRGYZSTAN'S AGRICULTURE SECTOR EXAMINED

Source: The Times of Central Asia, Maria Levina, 15.06.2012

Last Friday believers prayed for rain at the central mosque in Bishkek. There was a serious reason to do this, because after the cold and prolonged winter a sharp heat wave occurred and brought drought to the country. Due to the climatic conditions, the spring-field works were delayed by 15-20 days. Not having time to dry properly, the soil was covered with a dry crust which resulted in many problems for farmers.

Drought and irrigation

First Deputy Prime Minister Aaly Karashev said at a government meeting that the agricultural sector faces a very difficult situation. The harsh and long winter caused lack of feed and enormous damage to the population. According to agro meteorological forecasts, the month of May will be hot and dry as well.

The question arises whether farmers would be able to grow good crops in such circumstances. Most of agricultural lands are irrigated in Kyrgyzstan. Nevertheless, there are a lot of problems in this area, because the irrigation systems are in poor condition. Since independence many of them have been thoroughly destroyed, and there are no funds for their restoration in the state budget.

The Minister of Agriculture and Land Reclamation Askarbek Janybekov, who has taken office just a month ago, has to solve countless problems.

Janybekov said that the industry, which has been working according to the old Soviet system, needs to be reformed. "We have to work closely with farmers," said the Minister. He recalled that agriculture is a priority sector of the economy in Kyrgyzstan, where 65 percent of population lives in rural areas.

The new minister was tasked to implement the state program dealing with the construction of water facilities and develop new irrigated land. In order to support the farmers, the Ministry has to provide farmers with fuel, seed, easy credit and available technology. About 110 thousand hectares of land are not used every year in Kyrgyzstan, reported the Minister. In 2012, it is planned to increase the sown area by 8.5 thousand hectares. "The issue of food security is a priority for us," concluded the Minister.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, 800,000 hectares of the fields planted with crops are irrigated and 400,000 are not irrigated. Accordingly, these fields yield different crops. The irrigated land harvested 25-30 quintals (x 100 kg) of grain per hectare, while crops do not produce well on non irrigated soil and amount to only 15 quintals per hectare. Experts predict that in the case of drought, the harvest from irrigated plots could be not more than 18-20 quintals of grain per hectare.

In 2011 the climatic conditions for the growing season was relatively good, and the country harvested 900,000 tons of grain According to forecasts, this year's harvest may be 40 percent Iower. If the wheat is gathered below the planned amount, the government would have to buy the missing grain and flour from Russia and Kazakhstan.

Seeds and fertilizers

In order to obtain high yields, farmers should be provided with high-quality seeds. According to official figures, more than 30 percent of farmers use the seeds pom the second reproduction, and sometimes even from food grains.

The State cannot yet provide farmers with inexpensive but high-quality seeds and so far the winter crops have been fertilized only on 100 thousand hectares, which is half the planned area. In addition, farmers cannot properly use imported mineral fertilizers and veterinary drugs due to lack of instruction in Russian and Kyrgyz. According to deputies, farmers buy Chinese agricultural chemicals and veterinary medicines. The law requires that instruction shall be accompanied by the state and official languages, but the requirements are not fulfilled.

After the June 2010 events in southern Kyrgyzstan, supplies of fertilizer from Uzbekistan have sharply been reduced and now fertilizer suppliers must buy them from intermediaries. This badly affects the cost of fertilizer, and accordingly, this year's harvest.

Fuel and machinery

According to the press service of the Government, in order to upgrade the machinery and tractor fleet, rural producers leased 264 Chinese tractors and 72 Belarussian tractors. In addition, the Government purchased 20 tractors and 29 agricultural machinery, which will be handed over to the farmers soon.

The Ministry of Agriculture stated that there are 21,000 tractors and 7,000 mechanized plows in the country. However, 60-70 percent of this equipment is outdated and needs repairing. In addition, the spring field work required 41,000 tons of fuel, but so far fuel stocks are enough for one month only.

In late April, the government press service reported that rural producers received about 2.9 million liters of diesel fuel at preferential prices for spring-field works. Prices have been set by the State Agency of Antitrust Regulation. The fuel is sold at 35.2 soms ($1=46.6 soms) per liter for the southern regions, and at 33 soms per liter for the northern areas, taking into account delivery. For comparison, the domestic wholesale price of diesel fuel is 39.7 and 37.5 soms respectively.