Features of development of agriculture of Kazakhstan
Modern Kazakhstan. Agriculture overview. Raising sheep in South Kazakhstan. State-Run Program of Rural Territories Development. Characteristics of the country's agricultural production. Plant growing. Agricultural machinery, tractors in Kazakhstan.
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1. THE HISTORY OFAGRICULTURE DEVELOPMENT IN KAZAKHSTAN
1.1 Agricultural Sector
1.2 Modern Kazakhstan agriculture overview
1.3 Raising sheep in South Kazakhstan
1.4 State-Run Program of Rural Territories Development
2. DEVELOPMENT DYNAMICS OF AGRICULTURE IN KAZAKHSTAN
2.1 Characteristics of the country's agricultural production
2.2 Plant Growing
2.3 Grain crops
2.4 Agricultural machinery; tractors in Kazakhstan
The actuality of the problem. Agriculture in Kazakhstan remains a small scale sector of Kazakhstan's economy. Agriculture's contribution to the GDP is under 10% - it was recorded as 6.7%, and as occupying only 20% of labor. At the same time, more than 70% of its land is occupied in crops and animal husbandry. Compared to North America, a relatively small percentage of land is used for crops, with the percentage being higher in the north of the country. 70% of the agricultural land is permanent pastureland.
Kazakhstan's largest crop is wheat, which it exports. It ranks as the sixth largest wheat producer in the world. Minor crops include barley, cotton, sugar beets, sunflowers, flax, and rice. Agricultural lands in Kazakhstan were depleted of their nutrients during the Virgin Lands Campaign during the Soviet era. This continues to impact production today. Kazakh wine is produced in the mountains east of Almaty.
In 2009 the country had achieved record grain harvests of 21mn tonnes, exceeding the previous record of 20.1mn tonnes recorded in 2007.
Animals raised in Kazakhstan include chickens, sheep, pigs, horses and goats (in descending order of numbers). Meat production in tons was highest in cows, pork, mutton(meat), chicken, and "other meat." Wool, cow milk, and eggs are the other major animal products of the country. Kazakhstan has the largest wolf population of any nation in the world, with about 90,000.
The aim of the study is to define agricultural development features of Kazakhstan.
The tasks of the research are:
1 to find out development dynamics of agriculture of Kazakhstan;
2 to define the main stages of agriculture history in Kazakhstan;
3 to analyze the research material on the subject.
1. THE HISTORY OFAGRICULTURE DEVELOPMENT IN KAZAKHSTAN
agriculture kazakhs tantractor sheep
Kazakhstan has substantial untapped agricultural potential, yet its agricultural sector is underdeveloped and under-financed. The country's capital, Astana (previously known as Tselinograd), was the epicenter of a major Soviet agricultural expansion program--the "Virgin Lands" program--of the 1950s and 1960s. During this period, tens of thousands of households moved to central Kazakhstan to assist in the expansion of agriculture. Currently agriculture is the country's major employer. Yet it comes in a distant second to the industrial sector in attracting government attention for investment and support.
Kazakhstan produced about 8 million tons of wheat in the 2000-01 growing season, down from 11.2 million tons produced the previous year. Total grain production was about 10.5 million tons, down from over 14 million the year before. Area under cultivation increased approximately 4 percent in 2000 from the previous year, to 9.0 million hectares of wheat and 11.4 million total hectares of grain. Conditions were generally favorable for wheat in Kazakhstan's key north-central oblasts since the beginning of the growing season, with adequate precipitation in the form of frequent light-to-moderate showers. Vegetation indices from late July indicate that crop conditions in Kazakhstan in 2000 were not as good as in 1999, when near-ideal conditions prevailed, but they were better than during the drought of 1998 when wheat output dropped to 4.7 million tons.
One constraint that some economists see on Kazakhstan's agricultural development is the failure of the country to develop firm private property rights for agriculture. Economists maintain that private property rights play a critical role in providing the incentives necessary for investment and careful use of resources. During the Soviet period, large-scale agriculture was carried out on state farms (Sovkhozes) and collective farms (kolkhozes). With the end of the Soviet period, these farms were reorganized into large agricultural cooperatives with the understanding that they would eventually become private farms. However, the Kazakhstan government has postponed the adoption of true private property in agricultural land for cultural and political reasons. The lower chamber of Kazakhstan's parliament decided in June 2000 to postpone debate on a proposed law on land ownership. The Kazakhstan government originally submitted the draft bill to the parliament for passage in 1999, but the law was withdrawn after widespread public protests against land privatization. An amended version was resubmitted for debate in 2000. The year 2000 version stipulated that only land adjacent to rural dwellings, but not all the country's agricultural land, could be privately-owned. The amended draft also triggered public protests, including a hunger strike by opposition members of the Alash party organization. Members of the Alash fear that if agricultural land is privatized there will be little public support for defending the interests of small farmers against the interests of large farm owners. Kazakhstan, they fear, will witness the develop- ment of large plantation-style farms that derive profits for multinational companies while small farmers are increasingly pushed into subsistence-level farming.
1.1 Agricultural Sector
Kazakhstan is rich in land resources; more than 74% of the country's territory is suitable for agricultural production, representing 5.5% of GDP and employing over 20% of the labour force with 43% of population living the rural area. Although Kazakhstan's vast territory ranges from forest-steppes and steppes to half-deserted and deserted zones, the natural and climatic conditions in Kazakhstan are highly favourable to growing a wide variety of crops. It is expected that in 6-7- years agricultural development of Kazakhstan may reach the level of the Eastern European countries.
Meanwhile the Agro-Industrial Complex of Kazakhstan still suffers from a number of problems which bar from productivity and profitability. According to the World Bank, currently Kazakhstan's labour efficiency in agriculture five times lower than in the Eastern Europe, even lower than in Russia and Ukraine. In order to reach the European level it is also necessary to enhance production and competitive ability of the national producers. It is also necessary to implement international quality standards, including switching to modern technologies, thus the Kazakh producers will be ready for accession to the WTO.
At five times the size of France, it is no great surprise that Kazakhstan is one of the world's largest grain producers and exporters. The main grain crop is milling wheat, which is typically high in quality and protein. There is a growing trend for Kazakhstan to export its grain to other international markets, apart from its traditional market in the CIS.
In 2009 Kazakhstan produced 20.8 million metric tons of grain. Other food crops include barley, maize, rice, potatoes, soybeans, and sugar beets, cotton, tobacco, sunflower, flax, soybean, and mustard. Cotton is the most important industrial crop grown on the irrigated soils of southern Kazakhstan. Orchards and vineyards are widespread. The rich soil and climate provide ideal conditions for growing wheat, barley, rice, corn, millet and buckwheat.
1.2 Modern Kazakhstan agriculture overview
In the last decade, production growth has been driven by investments. Previously, agriculture was an overlooked sector of Kazakhstan's economy compared to oil and mineral resources. Nowadays, agriculture is very high on Kazakhstan's agenda, especially when food security became an urgent issue.
National Holding “KazAgro” allocated 1 billion USD for new projects including construction of greenhouses and poultry farms, feedlots, meat-packing factories, milk farms, infrastructure for grain exports and development of processing industry. The ongoing cooperation between Kazakhstan and North Dakota let to the creation of joint ventures in crop and livestock production. Considering the organic potential of agricultural sector, government of North Dakota opened up their trade office in Kazakhstan, demonstrating their long-term strategy in our country. The Government is now looking for private investors, particularly from the United States. According to the long-term plan for the development of the agricultural sector of Kazakhstan, the Government has allocated the land to be rent by foreign investors for 10 years.
For a country with a long nomadic history, it is not surprising that stockbreeding is the traditional and dominant agricultural sector. No less than three quarters of all agricultural land is used for grazing. Sheep breeding is predominant, while cattle breeding and growing of pigs, horses and camels are also well developed. Animal husbandry typically accounts for about 45% of the production value in agriculture in Kazakhstan. Primary meat products include beef, veal, chicken, horse, lamb, pork and rabbit. The livestock sector is gradually growing. Output of meat rose by 4.3% during 2008, egg production went up by 12.2% and milk output by 2.5%. Similarly, herd sizes are recovering after a period in the 1990s in which livestock were being slaughtered for meat but not replaced. As of January 1st, 2009 in comparison with last year the number of head of cattle has increased by 2,9 %, sheep and goats - on 5,3 %, horses - on 5,8 %, camels - on 3,1 %, birds - on 4,0 %.
It is worth to mention that growth of the food processing industry is triggered by increase of investments. Since 2002 the volume of capital investments reached $1 bln. Modern technologies were brought to Kazakhstan from different countries like Finland, Germany, Italy and others. In order to support this industry the government is implementing several programs of development aimed to improve technical and technological modernisation as well as promotion of entrepreneurship and competitiveness of the Kazakh products on the international market.
Solutions to the acute problems of rural territories were defined as priorities in the strategic course taken by the Kazakhstan Government.
Presidential Decree as of July 10, 2003 approved the State-run Program of Rural Territories Development for 2004-2010. Against the background of overall economic growth, disproportions in the income levels of urban and rural population have been growing; regional income differences have also become considerable. 43% of the population of the country lives in rural areas, third of it has income below subsistence level. Further in attendance to this condition would intensify income differentiation, would have a negative impact on social-political atmosphere of the society, and would be reflected on the indicators of human development and investment image of the country.
Taking into consideration development of agro-production sector and growth of revenues coming from agriculture, current excess of rural population is one of the reasons behind hindered growth of the population's living standards, and it has become a serious issue in planning of sustainable development of the country.
Problem is furthermore intensified by irrational schemes of settling, preserved from the times of planned economy; as a result of that, investment of funds directed at development of the social infrastructure of rural areas remains ineffective in the course of investment programs implementation, while migration processes still have spontaneous and unmanageable character.
The major objective of the State program of development of rural territories is to ensure adequate life support to rural territories, based on optimization of rural population's spatial distribution.
To hit the targets set by the Program, responsible agencies are supposed to take the following steps:
analyze the current situation/define major indicators of socio-economic development through certification of rural settlements;
work out primary measures to encourage economic activities, including investments into construction and rehabilitation of engineering infrastructure;
fine-tune monitoring of socio-economic development of rural settlements and of ecological safety of arable lands, enhance the land resources appraisal system;
work out and implement programs to stimulate migration of rural population;
work out a model of effective rural population's spatial distribution and take measures to implement the model.
1.3 Raising sheep in South Kazakhstan
The scale and novelty of the issues attended to within the Program, the need for coordination of the planned measures with capacities of the central and local budgets call forth for two-staged implementation of the Program.
With the first stage accomplished in 2006, the second stage (2007-2010) provides for evaluation of potential capacity of every rural settlement; implementation of measures is expected to optimize rural population's spatial distribution, ensure high living standards of rural population, and lay solid foundation for sustainable development of rural territories.
Elaboration of the Program was called forth by the need for measures that could ensure effective development of rural territories, and the need for optimum schemes of spatial distribution of rural population with a view of concentrating resources in economically viable regions, where satisfactory income level could be maintained.
Thus, one of the main targets of the Program is elaboration of an effective model of spatial distribution of rural population and its further implementation.
Regulation of migration flows is a core component of the Program of Rural Territories Development.
An important point is that the Program will contribute to adaptation of rural population to liberal market reforms.
The program is bound to boost economic growth in the agrarian sector and facilitate jobs creation in rural settlements of medium and high potential for development.
The Program provides for evaluation of agricultural organizations' demand for manpower for the following several years.
As a result of the Program implementation, income level in rural territories is bound to rise through upsurge of small business initiatives of rural population and widened scope of activities; internal migration will be encouraged and regulated.
By late 2006, the optimum model of spatial distribution with consideration of climate zones and location of factors of production was finalized; the model is to be fully adopted by late 2010.
Main areas of the development which will require significant amount of investment as well as western best practice in the development of rural area:
Development of healthcare and education in the rural area
The agricultural sector is one of the key elements of the country's economy. Kazakhstan is one of the major producers of marketable grain, meat, and wool. Farming areas occupy more than 220 million hectares and grain growing areas occupy about 13-14 million hectares. Farming areas comprise 74% of the country's total area. The pasture area totals 185.7 million hectares - 68% of all the farming areas. Individuals, collective farms and organizations utilize 81% of all farming areas and 98 % of all pastures.
1.4 State-Run Program of Rural Territories Development
Kazakhstan has embarked upon agricultural sector restructuring through the establishment of new corporate entities and privatization. Private ownership is now the dominant organization for agricultural production.
The farming law provides the following rights:
·Private ownership of property (land, real estate),
·Free separation of land and property from any collective farming to establish the private farms,
·Property protection from illegal expropriation,
·Freedom of the choice concerning the type of activity followed and product operations,
Equal access to markets, materials, information and finance.
There are 70,000 farms, of which 99,6 % were in the private sector. 61,000 farms were transferred on the basis of long-term tenure, involving 27.2 million hectares of land, 4300 farming cooperatives, over 4,000 partnerships 505 JSC and other entities. Large farms account for 73,5 % of land, small farms 18,6%, state-owned firms 4,0 %, and individuals 0,2%.
The 1st stage will involve the adoption of the law "On land." Private ownership of unoccupied farming lands or state reserve lands will be introduced. This will cover arable land, or land identified as being available for sale to local residents only.
The 2nd stage will complete the process of land privatization.
The land law of the Republic of Kazakhstan already allows different operations to exist, with the right to inherit ownership, or to sell, grant, lease, pledge and transfer rights to joint-stock companies, associations and cooperatives (including those with the foreign participation).
In order to attract foreign capital the period of land lease available to foreign investors was extended up to 99 years.
According to state statistical data, more than 2.3 million people are landowners.
More than 1.9 million transactions in the abatement, lease, sale and purchase of land use rights were arranged and 93% of all private farms received their land ownership confirmation documents.
The new market infrastructure is being developed in accordance with the agricultural plan, adopted by the President.
All the country's new regulations are designed to assist the development of a market infrastructure. 167 wholesale markets, 22 commodity exchanges and 13 credit associations are already functioning and associations of commodity producers and other services organizations are also established.
Currently there are 34 grain producing companies-members of the grain union of Kazakhstan. This is a NGO, acting on a voluntary basis in order to combine efforts and to coordinate the grain market activity.
2. DEVELOPMENT DYNAMICS OF AGRICULTURE IN KAZAKHSTAN
2.1 Characteristics of the country's agricultural production
The territory of Kazakhstan includes forest-steppe, steppe, half-deserted and deserted zones. The natural climatic conditions determine the low natural efficiency of agricultural arable lands that require significant volumes of investments.
These investments should be distributed among the following nine agricultural production zones.
Grain-animal farming zone occupies large territories of dry temperate steppe and covers 64 agricultural districts of the country.
This zone covers 32.8 million hectares of agricultural arable land, including 14.0 million hectares occupied by grain fields (42.7%), with a per capita distribution of 51 hectares of arable lands. This is the country's highest indicator. Soils are black and dark chestnut, the annual precipitation level totals nearly 300 mm.
The large areas of arable land provide cost-effective opportunities for private grain producing industry and animal farm development. Conditions in this zone are favorable for the production of large amounts of high-quality grain as well as meat and dairy farming.
II. Animal-grain-farming zone is situated in dry steppe on dark-chestnut and chestnut soils. The annual precipitation levels totals 250 mm. This zone covers 58 agricultural districts.
It is the largest zone and its agricultural lands total up to 56.0 mln hectare including 8.8 million hectare of arable lands. Animal farming is the major activity as grain farming is less effective in this zone.
III. Fine-fleeced sheep-breeding zone covers semi-deserted areas. Soils are light chestnut and brown. The zone covers 20 agricultural districts.
The total area of agricultural land equals 30.8 million hectares, including 7.1% of arable areas. Pastures cover more than 85%. Sheep breeding and cattle breeding are the major live stock activities.
IV. Meat-tallow ship-breeding zone occupies Central Kazakhstan's semi-deserted and deserted lands.
Soils are light-chestnuts and brown, the annual precipitation average totals 200 mm in the North and 100 mm in the South. This zone covers 12 agricultural districts.
The area of agricultural land totals 38.3 million hectares, and includes 2.7 million of arable lands (4.4%) and 36.0 million hectares of pastures.
V. Karakul sheep-breeding zone covers the deserted districts with brown and gray-brown soils. The average annual precipitation fluctuates from 150 mm in the North to 100 mm in the East. This zone covers 13 districts.
The agricultural lands total 31.5 million hectares, including 0.8 million hectares (2.5%) of arable lands and 30.3 million hectares of pastures.
This animal farming zone specializes in the production of sheepskins (karakul).
VI. Animal-fruit growing zone with industrial crops zone is located at the foothills and between mountains valleys to the east and east-west of Kazakhstan. The average annual precipitation fluctuates from 200 to 350 mm. This zone covers 29 district and 15.4 million hectares agricultural lands including 2.3 million hectares of arable lands (14.9%).
It's the main zone of intensive ploughed irrigation lands (41% of the country's total amount). Valuable industrial crops are produced here (sugar beet, tobacco). Pastures cover 12 million hectares and are used for sheep and cattle breeding.
VII. Rice zone includes the downstream areas of the Sirdarija River. Soils are grey-brown and the precipitation totals nearly 120mm a year. The rice growing areas cover all districts of the Kzyl-Orda oblast (excluding Aralsk). The area of agricultural land equals 11.6 million hectares, including plough lands, and 0.2 million hectares of pastures (96%).
The rice production in the area may be combined with sheep and cattle breeding.
VIII. Cotton zone covers the middle part of the Sirdarija River. Soils are grey-brown, the annual precipitation totals 220mm.
The zone covers the following districts of East Kazakhstan Oblast: Ordabasynsky, Zhetisaysky, Kelessky, Kirovsky, Mahtaaralsky, Sairamsky, Turkenstansky. The area of agricultural lands totals 2.2 million hectares including more than 0.2 million of pastures.
This zone also provides favorable conditions for fruit farming.
IX. Suburban (vegetable-milk) zone is located close to the urban centers in densely populated areas. The climate conditions of this zone are different because it covers different districts of the country - although homogeneous economic conditions result in identical functions of production to provide urban residents with vegetables, milk products and berries. This zone occupies 3.6 million hectares of agricultural lands, 0.7 million hectares of pastures and 150 thousand hectares of irrigated lands. The zone's economic presence is small because the zone production is management intensive and labor-consuming.
2.2 Plant Growing
Non-irrigated agriculture is practiced in north, northeastern and central Kazakhstan - areas characterized by high precipitation levels. This area covers 34 million hectare - 12% of the total land area of Kazakhstan. The growth in non-irrigated areas in these regions was caused by the development of virgin and disused lands. According to the research data, 12 million hectares of ploughed land in Kazakhstan requires erosion protection and over 5 million-hectare are washed away areas.
The productive soil layer (humus) loss over the last 25-30 years has totaled 20-25%.
According to quality analysis 4.7% of the soil has a high level of humus (23.9%), 46.5% has a low level (2-4%) and 24.9% a very low level (below 2%).
Irrigated agriculture is developed mainly in southern and southeastern regions and is determined by low precipitation levels and hot climate conditions. The total irrigated land area is 2 million hectares.
The application of new water saving methods of soil irrigation and the reconstruction of land used for rice and other forms of crop growing is very costly and demands substantial investment.
A reduction in fertilizer usage has occurred in Kazakhstan due to their high cost. Increasing consumption will require investment in the mineral fertilizer production industry and the introduction of cost reducing technologies.
2.3 Grain crops
Kazakhstan is one of the world's largest grain producers and exporters. Soil and climate provide ideal conditions for growing wheat, barley, rice, corn, millet and buckwheat.
The main grain crop is wheat. Kazakhstan wheat is high-class with a high protein content.
The average annual export of grain crops for the period of 1995-1998 was 3 to 3.4 million tons, with major customers including the CIS states of the Russian Federation, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, Belorus, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and the Ukraine.
There is a growing tendency to export Kazakhstan grain to other international markets. The list of Kazakhstan grain importers now includes Austria, Afghanistan, the UK, Venezuela, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, Turkey, Switzerland, Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Iran, China, Korea and Mongolia.
Idle-land recovery efforts are most active in Kostanai. In 2008, about 250,000 hectares of idle land were recovered, and the average recovery rate is 150,000 hectares per year. Agricultural enterprises in Kostanai have recovered a total of 1.0 million hectares to date, and officials expect that an additional 0.3 to 0.4 million will eventually be recovered. Land is being recovered in Akmola oblast as well, but there is a relatively small amount of idle land in North Kazakhstan oblast.
Recovery costs are low, unlike in central Ukraine or central Russia where the recovery of idle land can be prohibitively expensive. The main direct expense is the cost of treatment with a non -selective herbicide to kill the existing vegetation. Producers indicate that most fields are able to produce an average yield within two years.
The main industrial crops grown in Kazakhstan include beet, cotton and oil crops. Cotton is the most important industrial crop grown on the irrigated soils of southern Kazakhstan. The oil crops grown in Kazakhstan include sunflower, flax, soybean, mustard, etc. The most widespread crop is sunflower.
Kazakhstan is an important producer and exporter of high-quality wheat. Average annual production is about 13 million tons, but output is highly dependent on weather and in recent years has fluctuated between 10 and 17 million tons. Between 2 and 8 million tons is exported annually, mainly to destinations in Europe (including Russia and Ukraine), northern Africa, and Central Asia. Kazakhstan also produces around 2 million tons of barley, and a small amount of oats, corn, and rice, but wheat is by far the country's most important commodity. The production of oilseeds (sunflowerseed and rapeseed) is increasing but total oilseed output remains well below 1.0 million tons. The country also grows a small amount of cotton in southern Kazakhstan, with annual lint output at around 100,000 tons.
This article provides a brief overview of Kazakhstan crop production (focusing chiefly on wheat, the country's most important commodity) and is based on information from a variety of sources, including previous FAS Commodity Intelligence Reports, reports from the U.S. agricultural attache, and interviews with farm directors and agricultural officials in Kazakhstan.
According to Kazakhstan's first comprehensive agricultural census, conducted in 2006, 61 percent of Kazakhstan's 76.5 million hectares of agricultural land is permanent pasture, and 32 percent is classified as arable land (systematically cultivated for the production of row crops). Of the remainder, 3 percent is used for hay production and 4 percent is “long fallow” (indicating potentially arable land that has remained uncultivated for at least several consecutive years). Of the 24 million hectares of arable land, about two-thirds, approximately 18 million hectares, is devoted to grain production.
Total sown area, including grains, forage crops (mostly perennial grasses), technical crops (chiefly oilseeds and cotton), and food crops (potatoes, vegetables, and melons) decreased sharply during the late 1990's due to the contraction of grain and forage-crop area. (The decline in grain area actually began in the 1970's.) Grain area began to rebound in 2000, and by 2008 had grown by 40 percent from the 1999 level, while forage area essentially stabilized in the early 2000's after a 10-year nosedive.
The Main Wheat Production Region
Kazakhstan consists of 14 administrative territories, or oblasts. About 75 percent of the country's wheat is produced in three oblasts in north-central Kazakhstan: Kostanai, Akmola, and North Kazakhstan. Kostanai alone plants about 4 million hectares of wheat, as much as the entire state of Kansas. Spring wheat occupies 95 percent of the total wheat area in Kazakhstan and virtually all of the wheat in the three north-central oblasts. Minor grains include spring barley and oats (which are grown in the same region as spring wheat), winter wheat (southern Kazakhstan.), and rice (southern Kazakhstan, mostly in Kzyl-Orda oblast).
After peaking at 19.6 million hectares in 1969, Kazakhstan wheat area began in the mid-1970's to decrease gradually as fields of marginal productivity were taken out of production. In the early 1990's, following the breakup of the Soviet Union and the loss of massive government subsidies for State and collective farms and livestock enterprises, local agricultural officials began to set productivity thresholds for individual fields. Fields that consistently failed to meet the threshold -- typically 0.6 to 0.7 tons per hectare against a national average of about 0.9 tons per hectare -- were taken out of grain production and converted to permanent pasture. The decline in grain area accelerated in the mid-1990's when shrinking livestock inventories caused feed-grain demand to plummet, leading to a 75-percent drop in barley area between 1993 and 1999. During these six years, total grain area in Kazakhstan contracted at the rate of nearly 2 million hectares per year.
2.4 Agricultural machinery; tractors in Kazakhstan
Wheat area started to rebound in 2000 and by 2009 had increased by nearly 70 percent, to 14.7 million hectares, coincident with a steady recovery in State subsidies for agricultural inputs. (Barley area remained fairly stable over the same time, fluctuating between 1.7 to 2.1 million hectares.)
Oilseed area has nearly doubled in the past five years but still accounts for only about 6 percent of the country's total crop area. The planted area of sunflowerseed, Kazakhstan's main oilseed crop, has increased from about 450,000 hectares in 2004 to over 700,000 hectares in 2009. Sunflowers are grown mostly in eastern Kazakhstan. Rapeseed area has increased as well, from only 15,000 hectares in 2004 to about 200,000 hectares in 2009. Rape is grown in north-central Kazakhstan. Yields for both crops are consistently low, typically between 0.5 and 0.7 tons per hectare.
Cotton is grown only in South Kazakhstan oblast. Yields are lower than in neighboring Uzbekistan and production is hampered by a deteriorating irrigation infrastructure. (All of the country's cotton is irrigated.) Planted area doubled between 1997 and 2004, reaching a record level of 216,000 hectares, then contracted nearly as sharply over the following five years. Estimated production for 2009 was the lowest in over ten years.
The soils of north-central Kazakhstan are highly variable. Fertile chernozem and kashtan soils lie adjacent to highly salty solonchak soils, which are totally unsuitable for grain production. The flat, open land lends itself to large-scale agriculture. Individual fields frequently measure over 400 hectares (1,000 acres). Precipitation is meager - about 20 inches per year compared to roughly 30 inches in Kansas - and grain fields in this region are not irrigated. Reasonably high yields can be achieved during years of adequate rainfall, but the region is subject to frequent drought and is considered a zone of risky agriculture, similar to Russia's Volga Valley. Historically, Kazakhstan grain production suffers from serious drought two out of every five crop seasons. As a result, yield and production are marked by frequent and sharp year-to-year fluctuations.
Because of the country's dry climate, the quality of Kazakhstan wheat is relatively high. Class 1 wheat (with protein content no less than 13.5 percent) and class 2 wheat (no less than 12.5 percent) are referred to as silnaya, or strong, and grade 3 (no less than 12.0 percent) as tsenaya, or valuable. All three are considered milling quality. Class 4 (no less than 11.5 percent) and class 5 (below 11.5 percent) are slabaya, or weak, and are used for feed grain or alcohol production. In a year of reasonably favorable weather and average yield, about 75 percent of the wheat crop will likely qualify as milling quality. In general, grain quality tends to be higher in a drought year; quality typically increases as yield decreases. In the drought year of 2004, for example, 90 percent of the wheat qualified as milling grade. Quality is highest in the more southern (and drier) production regions of the main production zone in north-central Kazakhstan. Protein content typically reaches 14 percent in Akmola and southern Kostanai oblasts. Above Petropavlovsk, in the northern tier of North Kazakhstan oblast, protein content seldom exceeds 11 percent.
Prior to the early 1990's, durum wheat comprised roughly 10 percent of total wheat production in Kazakhstan -- nearly 2 million tons in a good year. Declining demand forced a gradual reduction in area during the 1990's. Both demand and sown area for durum have since stabilized, but durum currently represents a small fraction of Kazakhstan wheat output.
Spring grain planting typically begins in mid-May. Of the spring grains, oats are sown first, followed by wheat, then barley. Planting typically is finished by early June. The crops advance through the reproductive stage during mid-July, when temperatures climb to their highest levels and grains are most vulnerable to heat stress. Although barley is planted later than wheat, it is harvested earlier. Grain harvest begins in late August and continues through October. (View crop calendar.)
The dominant crop rotations for fields under conventional tillage systems are essentially unchanged from Soviet times, except that the share of wheat relative to barley and oats has expanded as planting decisions have become increasingly market-driven. The four-crop (or four-field) rotation is the most popular, and typically includes two consecutive years of wheat followed by one year of barley, oats or sometimes an oilseed crop depending on the location. Some enterprises have eliminated barley and oats from the rotation and plant nothing but wheat.
Conventional rotations include a year of clean fallow, during which no crop is planted. The purpose of the fallow year is to preserve soil moisture. Two consecutive years of wheat almost always follow the fallow year, and the first wheat crop enjoys the benefit of increased subsoil moisture. Assuming normal weather, yield drops by 15 to 20 percent for the second wheat crop. The use of clean fallow has decreased by 20 percent over the past five years due to the increasing use of reduced tillage.
One of the most interesting developments in Kazakhstan agricultural in recent years has been the emergence and growth of reduced-tillage technology (described in Kazakhstan as moisture-saving technology). There is no strict definition of what constitutes reduced tillage or minimum tillage, but the term typically implies the elimination of moldboard plowing and an increased reliance on chemical weed control. Under a strict no-tillage system, neither plowing nor secondary tillage is used. According to the Ministry figures, reduced tillage was employed on almost 60 percent of the sown grain area in 2009, including 1.3 million hectares under no-tillage. The Ministry has set a nation-wide goal of up to 80 percent reduced tillage within five years.
Although grain producers indicate that there is no clear yield advantage to either conventional or reduced tillage in a season of normal precipitation, reduced tillage preserves soil moisture and reduces (but certainly does not eliminate) the risk of yield loss in the event of drought. Adoption of a reduced-tillage regime also enables grain producers to eliminate the fallow year from the typical four-year crop rotation and plant a crop every year, which substantially increases the productivity of the field.
Reduced-tillage technology lowers fuel costs by eliminating one or more field operations, but increases herbicide costs because cultivation is replaced with chemical weed control. According to agricultural-enterprise directors, the savings in fuel costs roughly compensate for the increased chemical costs. In order to encourage the increased use of reduced tillage, the Ministry of Agriculture offers a higher direct subsidy for no-tillage wheat than for conventional-tillage wheat, and plans to increase government subsidies for herbicides.
For enterprises with old machinery, the adoption of a reduced-tillage system typically entails the replacement of outdated seeders with newer units designed to accommodate the technology. This machinery upgrade can be prohibitively expensive, especially for small enterprises or family farms. (For more information on reduced tillage, link to trip report.)
Although weather remains the single most important determinant for grain yield in Kazakhstan, improvements in crop management practices fueled by expanding State subsidies have contributed to higher and more stable wheat yields. Beginning around 2002, government support for agriculture has increased significantly in the form of reduced prices for fuel, seed, fertilizer, and agricultural chemicals. The average wheat yield for 2005 through 2009 is 13 percent higher than the average yield of 1986 through 1990, which was the peak of the so-called intensive technology movement in the Soviet Union.
Following a post-Soviet-era plunge, application rates for mineral fertilizer increased nearly six-fold between 1999 and 2007, and continue to increase due in part to the subsidized prices. Arguably the most important technological factor contributing to the improvement in Kazakhstan grain yield is the increase in the use of certified planting seed. The government provides support to agricultural research facilities, paying 40 percent of the research and development costs for breeder and foundation seed. Most enterprises use only first-reproduction seed (similar to certified seed in the U.S.) or higher-quality elite seed. The growth in certified-seed use was rapid: in 2002, only 50 percent of planting seed was certified seed; the remaining 50 percent was "common" seed (seed reserved from the previous year's harvest). By 2004, the use of certified seed had increased to 94 percent, including an increase in the use of elite seed (top-quality certified seed) from 37 to 57 percent.
Data from the State Statistical Agency indicate that inventories of agricultural machinery have declined significantly over the past 20 years. Furthermore, a high portion of Kazakhstan's current fleet - including 77 percent of its tractors and 59 percent of its grain combines - was over 15 years old at the time of the 2006 agricultural census. The statistics are somewhat misleading, however, because the data certainly include machines that are no longer in use. As is the case in Ukraine and Russia, the overall efficiency of Kazakhstan's machinery fleet is improving due chiefly to the replacement of aging grain-harvesting combines with new equipment. During field travel in 2009, FAS personnel observed an impressive fleet of both domestic and foreign machinery at nearly every agricultural enterprise that the team visited. In general, enterprise directors expressed satisfaction with the quality and efficiency of domestic tractors but prefer western cultivators, seeders, and combines. The quality gap is especially striking in the case of grain-harvesting combines. For example, farm directors report that one John Deere combine can do the work of four Russian-built units, but the cost is about four times as high.
Peasant farms, like agriculture enterprises, produce commodities mainly for sale rather than for private consumption. Official data indicate that grain yields on peasant farms are significantly lower than on agricultural enterprises. Agricultural officials and other observers attribute the yield gap in large part to the aging machinery fleet on peasant farms; peasant farms typically cannot afford to lease or purchase new equipment.
Household farms are small personal subsidiary plots (average size 0.15 hectares, or about one half of one acre) that are used to produce crops or livestock chiefly for personal consumption. Kazakhstan's 3 million household farms produce less than 1 percent of Kazakhstan grain but account for 50 percent of the country's poultry inventory and 85 percent of the cattle.
Agro-holding companies play a large role in Kazakhstan agriculture. An agro-holding company typically operates as an umbrella company for numerous individual agricultural enterprises, providing operating capital and marketing channels for commodities produced on the farms. In Kostanai, the top grain-producing oblast in Kazakhstan, over 40 percent of the agricultural area is held by the four largest holding companies. (The largest holding company controls 900,000 hectares in Kostanai - 20 percent of the total sown area in the oblast - and owns 70 percent of the grain elevators.) In North Kazakhstan oblast, about 20 agro-holding companies control 80 percent of the sown area. The government owns all agricultural land, and farmland is leased to holding companies, agricultural enterprises, and peasant farmers under 49-year leases.
But, Kazakhstan is also bound by its history. The communist system stripped people of independent thinking, creativity and the leadership qualities that are necessary for a free and democratic society to thrive. The success of agriculture and other industries will depend on the leadership of a strong and stable government, willing to shed its old ways of thinking and make the bold, decisive moves that will propel Kazakhstan into the 21st century.
Kazakhstan is a beautiful and vast country, blessed with an abundance of human capital and natural resources. With freedom and democracy as its new foundation, I can't help but believe that Kazakhstan will eventually succeed in its transition to a market-based economy, and in the process become an ally and trading partner with the United States.
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Picture 1. Kazakhstan agriculture grain elevators
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