PRESS OF UZBEKISTAN
July 11, 2016
AGRICULTURE OF UZBEKISTAN: A TIME FOR GREAT ACHIEVEMENTS
Agriculture is one of the key sectors of the national economy. The favorable natural-climatic conditions available in the country, the selfless hard-working people plus the elaborate state strategy realized in the sector facilitate the dynamic development of farming in the Republic. An abundance of sunshine and light, mild short winters and fertile irrigated arable land make it possible to grow valuable warm-season crops and take in high harvests. The cereals, fruit and vegetables cultivated in Uzbekistan are ecologically safe, that’s why they are much in demand in the world marketplace.
The large-scale reforms carried out in the country over the years of independence and the resulting qualitative changes in the agro-industrial complex, as well as the optimization of areas under crops and geographical demarcation of agricultural crops allowed the national farming not only to increase the crop capacity of fields, but also to tangibly improve the population’s living standard.
It is quite symbolic, in this connection, that one of the first steps taken by Uzbekistan towards the acquisition of independence was the adoption in 1998 of a resolution to allot more than 400,000 hectares of irrigated arable land for personal plots belonging to farmers. When the Republic became a sovereign state, a comprehensive program was worked out and realized in the agrarian sector as soon as possible. In the first place, the very structure of areas under crops was changed; as a result, the production of cotton was halved, in favour of valuable cereals. A given decision, together with a series of measures taken by the country’s leaders to back the sector’s development, allowed Uzbekistan to attain grain independence in a historically short period of time, turning the nation from a net-importer of grain into its active exporter. A number of loss-making and unprofitable state agricultural establishments and collective farms were closed down. Instead, modern farms were set up, capable of ensuring an increase in labour productivity on the basis of up-and-coming agrarian and other technologies.
Diversification of the national agricultural sector proved to be a crucial stage of reforms. Previously, cotton production dominated the Uzbek farming. The acquisition of independence opened up lots of opportunities for the development of such directions as viticulture, potato-growing, bee-keeping, poultry farming, fish-breeding and other types of agrarian business in the Republic. In a move to support their development, the state created a propitious environment for farmers, extending credits on preferential terms, providing technical maintenance of farms and dekhkan establishments, supplying all material and technical resources they need, such as fuel, chemical fertilizer, biological and chemical plant-protection substances, seeds etc. What’s more, large technical facilities were erected to ensure the preservation of harvests.
The stage-by-stage realization of systemic measures in the agrarian sector permitted domestic farmers to reach considerable quantitative and qualitative results. Today, its annual growth rate exceeds 6-7 per cent. Over the past 25 years, the production volumes of farm produce more than doubled. As a consequence, the per capita consumption of meat in Uzbekistan increased 1.3-fold, milk and dairy products – 1.6-fold, potatoes – 7-fold, fruit and vegetables – almost 4-fold and twice as much, respectively.
According to data from the Ministry of Agriculture and Water Supply of the Republic of Uzbekistan, at present the country produces over 17 million tons of fruit and vegetables a year, or some 300 kg of vegetables, 75 kg of potatoes and 44 kg of grapes per capita. These indicators are 3 times higher than the world’s generally accepted norms of consumption.
The international experts estimate the potential of the national agrarian sector at more than US $5 billion. The country is increasingly becoming one of the world’s biggest exporters of quality and competitive fruit and vegetables.
It is well known that to ensure the unstoppable supply of fruit and vegetables all-the-year-round, their processing and storage come to the fore. At this stage it is worth mentioning the following figures. The past decade has seen a 3.5-fold rise in the volume of processed fruit, vegetables and grapes. In particular, the production of tinned fruit and vegetables grew 2.5-fold, dried fruits – 4-fold and natural juices – 7-fold. Today, the share of processed fruit, vegetables and grapes exceeds 16 per cent of their total production volume.
Nowadays, Uzbekistan exports over 180 varieties of fresh and processed fruit and vegetables. The farm products cultivated on the fertile Uzbek soil can be met in the near- and far-abroad foreign markets, like Norway, Thailand, Indonesia, the US, Japan, Mongolia, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia and even Brazil. All in all, more than 120 countries of the world can now enjoy the delicious taste of Uzbek fruit and vegetables.
It is common knowledge that the development of an agro-industrial complex depends on the rational exploitation of land and water resources, whose reserves are shrinking all over the globe, accompanied by a simultaneous rise in the planet’s population. With this in mind, independent Uzbekistan launched root-and-branch reforms in the water-supply sector, which were intended to improve the ameliorative state of irrigated arable land, to ensure the rational and thrifty use of limited water resources and to raise the fertility of areas under crops. The following factors, among other things, contribute to the achievement of these objectives: the broad introduction of principles of water-resources integrated management and the attraction to the sector of modern technologies, as well as the systems of automated control and water-distribution management.
To guarantee the efficient management of water resources and their timely supply to customers and consumers, as many as 10 basin administrations of irrigation systems and over 1,500 water customer associations have been successfully performing since 2003. They unite about 70,000 customers. The state devotes a great deal of attention to the preservation, upgrading and technical and technological renovation of irrigation canals countrywide. Using funds from various sources of financing, over 5,000 kilometers of canals, some 100,000 kilometers of irrigation and chute networks and 10,000 hydro-installations are repaired throughout the Republic. All these and other measures help to raise the efficiency of water resources management, to improve their supply to customers and to minimize losses in the irrigation networks.
More than 9 years ago, a new stage of large-scale reforms was launched in an effort to improve the ameliorative state of arable land. It was initiated by the Presidential Decree, “On measures to fundamentally improve the land-reclamation system” dated 29th October 2007. Two new establishments – the Department for Management of the Irrigated Land Reclamation Foundation and Uzmeliomashleasing, a state-run leasing company, were set up at the Ministry of Finances. The State Program of Irrigated Land Reclamation for 2008-2012 served as a road map for massive reforms in the sector. The indicated period has seen the realization of a package of ameliorative measures, including the construction, reconstruction and restoration of manifold and drainage systems to the tune of US $500 million. Between 2008 and 2012, over 1.2 million hectares of irrigated areas were ameliorated. In addition, the optimum bedding of the level of subsoil waters was ensured, which facilitated a rapid growth of agricultural crops.
Uzmeliomashleasing, in turn, was busy supplying modern ameliorative equipment and accomplishing the latter’s subsequent transfer on long leases. Over the years of its activity, the state company provided organizations and establishments operating in the country’s agro-industrial complex, with more than 2,000 units of highly efficient machinery, including some 800 excavators, 240 bulldozers and other machines.
Leasing, therefore, has proved to be the most suitable method of delivering land-reclamation machinery to indigenous agrarian enterprises and farms. The main explanation for this lies in the way, in which the financial services are rendered. As far as leasing is concerned, such services are provided on preferential terms and the long-term basis. In a move to further expand the number of services, Uzmeliomashleasing introduces modern methods of operation that completely correspond to the established international standards and norms. In particular, all conditions have been created to transact leasing operations in any corner of Uzbekistan.
Let it be also pointed out here that the range of ameliorative machinery supplied by the company tends to broaden from year to year. Today, there are about 20 different types of machines that are offered to customers on the leasing basis. These include: caterpillar tractors, excavators, bulldozers, dump-body trucks, truck-mounted cranes, gasoline delivery tankers, tractors and the like. Their acquisition on long leases allows economic establishments and enterprises to solidify their material-technical base, to substantially expand the scope of their agricultural and ameliorative works, as well as to guarantee their systemic character.
The Presidential Resolution, “On measures to further improve the ameliorative state of irrigated areas and to ensure the rational use of water resources in the period 2013-2017” as of 19th April 2013, represents a logical continuation of reforms in the sector. The document identified a series of works that are connected with each other, such as irrigation and land reclamation, reconstruction, repairs and restoration of installations, as well as the application of water-saving technologies. There are plans to dig 2.1 thou kilometers of irrigation canals, to build 96 hydro-technical installations, to repair and restore 558,57 thou km of irrigation canals, to construct 3,85 thou km of manifold-drainage networks, to repair and restore 75,5 thou km of drainage ditches and others. With a view to renewing the fleet of ameliorative machinery, Uzmeliomashleasing will supply a total of 836 new machines and equipment, which require the creation of 1,170 new jobs. Last year the company’s lease holders received 257 units of ameliorative equipment to the tune of 53 billion Soum (currency rates of CB RU from 11.07.2016, 1$= 2948.59 soums). What’s remarkable is that 85 per cent of their total cost was financed out of preferential credit facilities.
Till now, as much as approximately US $1 billion has been appropriated towards the implementation of measures to further improve the ameliorative condition of irrigated areas and to use water resources in the most efficient way. The projects already brought to completion include the building and reconstruction of 1,771 km of manifold and drainage networks, repairs and restoration of 24.7 thou km of irrigation canals, as well as the improvement of the ameliorative state of 1.7 million hectares of arable land all over the Republic.
While working in this direction, special attention was given to the development of water-saving irrigation technologies. In the last few years the so-called drop irrigation has been introduced across some 16.3 thou hectares. It is necessary to mention the fact that the state has been trying its best to encourage domestic farmers to apply up-to-date technologies in their activity. In the period between 2013 and 2017, land users and farms are granted credits on preferential terms that are needed to buy fertilizer and to introduce drop-irrigation systems. The farms that active apply this technology are exempt from land and other taxes for 5 years.
Issues surrounding the improvement of water infrastructural facilities by attracting foreign investments are of pre-eminent concern to Uzbekistan. At present, a number of large-scale projects are carried out in the agrarian sector with the assistance of international financial institutions and donor countries. For the time being, the US $74 million-worth “Drainage Project of Uzbekistan”, backed by the World Bank, has already been finalized. As well as that, rehabilitation projects have been accomplished at the Kuyumazar and Karakul pumping stations, to the tune of US $12 million and US $14 million, correspondingly.
At the present time, the Islamic Development Bank funds works to upgrade arterial irrigation canals of the Tashsakin system in Khorezm province. The total cost of the project is US $144 million. French investors take part in projects to rehabilitate the Navoi and Uchkara pumping stations, with US $38 million invested. The Asian Development Bank provides assistance in the realization of a project to technically and technologically renovate the Amu-Bukhara irrigation system. A record US $284 million has been earmarked by a given financial institution for this purpose.
A number of large-scale projects are in the pipeline. Suffice it to mention two projects to improve the way the water resources are managed in south Karakalpakstan (to the tune of US $337 million given by the World Bank) and in Surkhandarya province of Uzbekistan (to the tune of US $193 million earmarked by the Islamic Development Bank).
(Source: «Business partner.uz» newspaper)