Agriculture production to gain larger share on domestic market

By Aynur Karimova

Azerbaijan is keen on ensuring domestic demand in agricultural products and boosting export to foreign markets by increasing their production.

The country plans to export its high-quality agricultural products, which enjoy popularity and are in demand, to neighboring countries.

In this regard, President Ilham Aliyev has set improving the export capacity of the agrarian sector as one of the main priorities for Azerbaijan.

But the first and main goal is to ensure domestic demand through local production.

Tahir Rzayev, a member of the parliamentary committee on regional Issues, told Trend on January 14 that Azerbaijan should become a country not depending on import of agrarian products.

"The head of state has given serious instructions in this regard at a meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers dedicated to the results of socio-economic development in 2015 and objectives for the future," he said.

The MP believes that the development of agriculture, including animal husbandry is among key measures taken by the government to reduce dependence on import.

Rzayev said that Azerbaijan has established factories in the Aghjabadi region for production of meat and milk, and developed grain production.

"Similar measures should be implemented in other regions of the country to expand the export of agricultural products," he noted.

Meanwhile, experts believe that Azerbaijan needs to amend the legislation, and increase allocation of loans to entrepreneurs for stimulating local production in the country.

Fuad Gulubekov, the Chairman of the Association of Producers of meat and meat products, told Trend on January 14 that it is necessary to increase the volume of local production to reduce dependence on imports.

"The government is taking measures to increase domestic production of meat and meat products. Additional measures are needed to stimulate the local producers," he said.

Azerbaijan mainly imports wheat, dairy products and raw materials for vegetable oils and sugar from abroad.

Despite the fact that currently, the country produces 3.6 million tons of fruit, vegetables, potatoes and melons and gourds, over 200,000 tons of the mentioned products are imported as well.

"However, the volume of exported fruits and vegetables of Azerbaijan exceeds the volume of import of these products by 5-10 times," Firdovsi Fikretzade, the Department Head of the Agriculture Ministry told Trend on January 13.

Azerbaijan produces around 300,000 tons of meat, while 40,000 tons of beef, lamb and chicken meat is imported to the country from abroad.

To decrease imports, the country has established highly productive livestock breeding farms to reduce imports of dairy products. These facilities are believed to increase milk production and stably provide the milk processing industry with raw materials.

"Despite the fact that the country imports a large volume of raw materials for vegetable oils, refinery of these raw materials creates added value due to the country's existing industrial potential. Export of these products is realized in a large extent," he noted.

Self-sufficiency in wheat needs boosting

Statistics show that Azerbaijan's self-sufficiency with wheat is 54 percent. Fikretzade believes that the country should bring this figure to 80-90 percent.

"We have necessary resources and infrastructure to do this. Currently, one of the main priorities of the government is to increase production of wheat and reduce its import. To this end, subsidies and preferential loans are allocated from the budget to establish large grain farms and new grain stores, to start producing qualitative grain seeds and to stimulate wheat sowing," he said.

Fikretzade noted that although the Azerbaijani lands are famous for productivity, our country is at one of the last places in the world in land resources per capita.

"Therefore, it is impossible to plant thousands of hectares of sunflower and corn for production of vegetable oils and thousands of hectares of land with wheat," he concluded.

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Aynur Karimova is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @Aynur_Karimova

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