By Ofeliya Afandiyeva
Economic reforms carried out in Azerbaijan’s non-oil sector in recent years, have led to the steady development of the country’s overall economy.
Director of agriculture, tourism and Industry of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) Secretariat Memduh Unal has said that “Azerbaijan has been the fastest growing country among the ECO member states over the past years in terms of economic development”.
Unal made the remarks in an address to the 5th High Level Experts Meeting on Agriculture of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) held in Baku recently.
Addressing the event, Azerbaijan’s Deputy Minister of Agriculture Elchin Zeynalov said that as a consequence of the large-scale agrarian reforms implemented in Azerbaijan, the agricultural growth rate has been stable and the dynamic development trend have continued throughout 2019 in the country.
“During the first nine months of 2019, there was a 7.1 percent increase in agriculture compared to the same period of 2018 and a 6.2 percent of GDP is achieved from this sector,” Zeynalov stated.
Azerbaijan’s Agriculture Minister Inam Karimov spoke about the state support for agriculture in his speech, stressing that Azerbaijan is one of the leading countries in the world in this field.
Karimov said that the government has taken measures to increase the attractiveness of the agricultural sector for investors, adding that the country’s trade relations are boosting.
Particularly, he reminded that Azerbaijan’s trade turnover with the ECO member countries exceeded $4 billion in 2018.
“This is the figure that we must increase, considering the huge potential. First of all, countries should enhance trade relations with one another, using available advantages,” Karimov further said.
Moreover, the Chairman Azerbaijan's Food Safety Agency Goshgar Tahmazli spoke about the importance of private sector in Azerbaijan’s economy. He mentioned that this sector is a main branch of the country’s economic policy.
“We cooperate with many organizations, including economic cooperation organizations, so that Azerbaijan takes a firm position at the global level. We observe tangible success and we also own great potential in the manufacture and export of agricultural products,” the chairman stated.
According to the report presented by Tahmazli, the country’s gross agricultural output grew by 7.2 percent in January-October 2019, compared to the same period last year.
The volume of exported sugar in January-October increased by 49.5 percent, fruit and vegetable juices - by 33.7 percent, tea - by 20 percent, healthy food additives - by 9.6 percent, Tahmazli said.
Tahmazli also praised the Food Safety Agency’s working, saying that before the agency started operating, the number of refusals from Azerbaijani goods was 36 while this figure has dropped to 11.
“The Agency has conducted serious work to simplify the export of foodstuffs of animal origin Azerbaijan to the EU, as a result of which, the export volume has risen significantly and continues to grow,” Tahmazli underlined.
He underlined that the ECO member countries have enormous potential in export of livestock products, with the participation of veterinary control authorities.
“Our countries can expand corporation monitoring food safety, animal diseases, studying international standards in this direction, as well as regarding mutual recognition of laboratories,” the chairman said.
Deputy Secretary General of ECO Sayed Yahya Akhlaqi spoke about the economic potential of the ECO member countries, adding that they can play a significant role in the world market.
Akhlaqi said that in some ECO member states, the agricultural sector is underdeveloped, food problems are growing, and therefore, the governments of these countries should increase the role of agriculture.
In his opinion, the level of agricultural development in the region is insufficient.
“It is necessary to use appropriate technologies, increase the amount of investment in rural areas and take measures to prevent soil degradation for the development of agriculture in the region. Our future projects should be based on financial and technical planning. Agriculture should develop at an accelerated pace. I am sure that working together, we will be able to succeed it,” Deputy Secretary General of ECO emphasized.
It should be noted that at the same day, the Baku Declaration on Agriculture and the Report of the 6th meeting of the ECO member countries' agriculture ministers were adopted.
The document outlines the prospects for developing cooperation in the field of agriculture and trade between member countries, the creation of the Regional Agrarian Research and Innovation Center of the ECO member states and other issues.
The meeting was attended by experts of Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Agriculture and its subordinated agencies, representatives of the ministries of agriculture of the ECO member countries and relevant ECO bodies, the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA), UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) as well as World Bank officials and lasted for December 3-4.
The ECO is an inter-governmental regional organization, encompassing 10 countries, 460 million inhabitants and over 8 million square kilometers connecting Russia to Persian Gulf and China to Europe. The objective of the Organization is the sustainable economic development of its member states and the region as a whole.
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