By Mirsaid Ibrahimzade
Azerbaijan has ancient traditions of cotton growing.
During excavations at the construction site of the Mingachevir Hydro Power Plant, a flap of cotton was found, dated back few thousand years ago.
In early 1913, cotton was planted in over 100,000 hectares of land and 65,000 tons of crops were produced in Azerbaijan. Cotton was the main source of income in Shirvan, Mughan-Salyan and Mil-Karabakh.
At the beginning of the eighties, Azerbaijan harvested up to a million tons of cotton per year. But then, like all other industries in all other Soviet republics, cotton growing declined due to the low purchasing price of crude cotton in the world market, the high cost of the product and the weak development of the domestic light industry, and for a long time could not receive the necessary investments for revival.
Cotton is a drought-resistant plant, but it does not tolerate frost and low temperatures, so Azerbaijan is a safe place to grow cotton. Most of cotton harvest is recorded in Saatli, Barda, Agjabadi, Bilasuvar and Beylagan regions.
That is, on the one hand, Azerbaijan has a rich potential and experience in this matter, whereas, on the other hand, there is a high need to restore the culture of cotton growing. The oil era is coming to an end, or at least the events of recent years have made the world's oil countries understand that the state treasury is not filled up with oil, and attempts to prove the opposite are fraught. Azerbaijan became one of the first countries that promptly reacted to the challenges of the time, which set the diversification of the economy as a key task. In particular, the development of the non-oil sector by all possible means is in the center of government's attention.
The cotton industry, which was once the traditional branch of agriculture in Azerbaijan, is effectively reviving today. The turning point in the modern development of cotton production in Azerbaijan was 2016. Cotton from 51,000 hectares was harvested, which is three times more than in 2015. In 2016, with the aim of promoting the development of this industry, the republican meeting on cotton development in Sabirabad, the first after a long break, was held, and in 2017, the second such meeting was held in the Saatli region.
But the industry received the most powerful impetus in 2017, when the head of state ordered the approval of the State Program for the Development of Cotton-Growing in Azerbaijan for the period 2017-2022 (July 13, 2017). The purpose of the State Program is to develop cotton growing, increase export potential in this sphere, ensure employment of the rural population and increase the production of cotton. As a result of the implementation of the state program, the production of raw cotton should increase to 500,000 tons by 2022.
In 2018, cotton production amounted to 232,200 tons and the cultivation area was 132,500 hectares. Productivity figures for the same year stood at the level of 17,5 centners per hectare. In 2017, the amount of produced cottow was 207,500 tons, while the cultivation area was 136,413 hectares.
Meanwhile, the average yield of cotton in Central Asia reaches 25-30 centners per hectare, including in Uzbekistan - up to 40 centners, and in some farms this figure reaches 50 centners per hectare.
As the above-mentioned figures show, there is something to strive for in the direction of increasing cotton yield. Moreover, it is a less costly way to increase cotton production, allowing you to increase the return on additional costs.
In other words, the above steps - expanding the acreage and increasing yields - with commensurate sales will help us achieve the cherished figure - half a million tons of raw “white gold”.
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