NUR-SULTAN. KAZINFORM – Agriculture is a key sector for Kazakhstan, where almost 42% of the population lives in rural areas and almost 14% of the country’s economically active population is employed in industry. Being the ninth largest country and having almost 74% of the territory suitable for agriculture are just some of the factors that make agriculture a promising sector for the country. More information on the current state and challenges of agriculture can be found in Kazinform’s latest analytical article.
According to data from the Kazakh Ministry of Agriculture, in 2021, 281 investment projects in the amount of 255.1 billion tenge were implemented and put into operation, including 180 livestock projects in the amount 145.4 billion tenge, and 101 agricultural production projects amounting to 109.7 billion tenge.
Based on the ministry’s plan for 2021-2025, there is a pool of 934 investment projects worth 4.4 trillion tenge. These projects include areas such as the establishment of dairy farms, poultry farms, breeding stock, fattening sites and sugar factories.
In 2022, according to ministry data, it is planned to implement 312 projects worth 581.1 billion tenge, including 197 livestock projects worth 259.1 billion tenge, 7 projects of fish farming in the amount of 7.6 billion tenge and 99 projects in crops in the amount of 299.4 billion tenge.
Although the country has significant agricultural potential, all this potential has not always been properly used. President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has repeatedly referred to the need to reform the agricultural sector, emphasizing the opportunity to form seven major ecosystems for the production and processing of meat, fruits, vegetables, sugar, cereals, oilseeds and dairy products.
In his Jan. 15 speech to the Majilis, a lower house of the Kazakh parliament, President Tokayev said the government should focus on addressing key issues in the sector. He spoke of the adverse consequences of the drought which the western and southern regions of the country suffered last year, which caused significant crop losses.
“Compared to last year, the volume of grain harvested decreased by 4 million tonnes. This affected the supply of raw materials and fodder. According to forecasts, the situation could be difficult this year as well. The government must strictly control the supply of seeds, fodder, fertilizers and the sowing campaign,” Tokayev said.
Kazakhstan’s agricultural sector faces certain challenges to fully unleash its potential – reform of the subsidy system, updating of equipment, development of research and science as well as the fight against climate change.
Over the past five years, Kazakhstan has allocated more than 2 trillion tenge for the development of agriculture, but according to the president, despite the increase in subsidies, there has been no significant change in this area .
Subsidies are generally granted to finance the development of the production of priority crops, the cost of mineral fertilizers, the cost of pesticides and bioagents (entomophagy) as well as the cost of water supply services.
“Subsidies are diverted, do not reach their beneficiaries and are used for purposes unrelated to agricultural production,” Tokayev said.
In recent years, the Anti-Corruption Agency of Kazakhstan has investigated 960 criminal cases and 54% of them were involved in grant theft. 80 billion tenge were allocated for pasture irrigation, but half disappeared.
Tokayev instructed the government to create a one-stop platform where farmers can receive information and services on subsidies free of charge, as it is imperative to facilitate access to subsidies, ensure their accessibility and transparency.
But while the majority of farmers live in rural areas, where internet connection is often poor, the use of such platforms becomes hardly possible.
Other problems with the current grant system include the complexity and multiplicity of grant areas, the emphasis on supporting intermediate technological processes, which are difficult to control, and the lack of a standard for evaluating the effectiveness of grants as well as the lack of accountability for grant recipients to achieve specific results
At the February 15 government meeting, Agriculture Minister Erbol Karashukeev said the new system was being developed. He spoke about the measures taken to adjust the system of state support for the industry.
Currently, the proposals are being reviewed by the task force and will be presented to the government in March.
Apart from the introduction of cross-responsibilities, the new system, which will soon be launched in the Akmola region in pilot mode, will also be transferred to digital format, which means that it will have an automatic register of grant recipients, verification of their compliance with the category of agricultural producers, registration of their counter-obligations, evaluation of their performance and order of receipt of subsidies.
According to Evgeniy Karabanov, an official representative of the country’s Grain Union, who spoke in an interview with one of the country’s national television channels, the mechanisms should be clear and as realistic as possible, and access to subsidies should be simplified. This support is of paramount importance for agricultural producers, who suffered significant crop losses due to the severe drought last year. Without this, producers fear an extremely difficult situation during the next sowing campaign.
To solve these problems, the Ministry of Agriculture of Kazakhstan recently asked the government to consider increasing the budget loan for spring field work by an additional 70 billion tenge.
Impact of climate change on agriculture
Last year’s drought, the worst the country has seen in years, is an example of how climate change is affecting agriculture.
But while farmers are hard hit by climate change, agriculture, on the other hand, is one of the sectors that generate significant greenhouse gas emissions. According to World Bank data, it currently generates 19-29% of total greenhouse gas emissions.
“The negative impacts of climate change are already being felt, in the form of increased temperatures, weather variability, shifting agroecosystem boundaries, invasive crops and pests, and more frequent extreme weather events” , says the World Bank. “On farms, climate change is reducing crop yields, the nutritional quality of major cereals and livestock productivity. »
Climate change brings short to medium term production risks to farmers and growers, with droughts and floods becoming more frequent and reduced availability of water for irrigation due to accelerated glacial melt.
According to UNDP forecastsif current farming practices remain as they are, Kazakhstan could lose up to 13 to 37 percent of spring wheat yield by 2030. This means that 23 to 81 percent of the harvesting area could decline , resulting in nearly 457 billion tenge in direct economic losses.
“Given that Kazakhstan is the world’s ninth largest producer and seventh exporter of wheat and the only exporter from Central Asia, the lack of climate change adaptation measures in Kazakhstan could pose a threat to the food security of any the region,” the UNDP said.
Food security is the issue that President Tokayev has repeatedly raised, noting that measures to address deteriorating food security cannot be delayed. These include more efficient use of land and water resources, improving land fertility, introducing water-saving technologies, among other measures. Addressing the Majilis session, Tokayev described tackling food security as a “key priority for the government”.
With the abundant resources available to Kazakhstan, but with the equally significant risks it faces, the question arises – will Kazakhstan be able to meet its needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their food needs, but at the same time trying to achieve higher yields, better water efficiency and long-sought sustainability.
Article by Assel Satubaldina