European market can be of great opportunity for Azerbaijani farmers - economist
The European market could be a light of hope for Azerbaijan's farmers especially when Azerbaijan is eager to branch out the export market currently.
Despite Agriculture making up 2.8 percent of the GDP, it takes the lion's share in the non-oil-and-gas export of Azerbaijan. Almost one-third of Azerbaijan's exported non-oil-and-gas products belong to the Agriculture sector. In addition, over forty percent of the population lives in rural areas in Azerbaijan and the agriculture sector is considered a traditional economic sector. It was the agriculture sector that restored itself very rapidly in parallel with the oil sector after the collapse of the USSR when the economy was also in the state of cessation in Azerbaijan. For example, the export of fruits and vegetables have increased by 60 times over 30 years. So we dare say that Azerbaijanis are very well in the production of agriculture.
However, for all that, there are big challenges lying in front of Azerbaijani agriculture. Since the export of Azerbaijani agriculture products heavily depends on Russian and Turkish markets, the breakout of the Russo-Ukranian War and the earthquake in Turkiye had an impact on the Azerbaijani agriculture. Azerbaijan exports the bulk of fruits and vegetables to Russia and cotton to Turkiye. The export of vegetables and fruits decreased slightly since the inception of the war which is unusual for Azerbaijani farmers because previously it used to increase year-by-year. As for the export of cotton, it diminished by 2.7 times. Encountering such big challenges, Azerbaijan intends to diversify its export regions. Therefore regional director of the International Agricultural Association for Eastern Europe Olga Hunger's interview with the local media on Azerbaijan's possible export of fruits to Germany caused a bit of interest. According to her, Azerbaijan can export fruits to Germany which are not produced there, such as pomegranate, citrus fruits, and nut. Given Hunger's comments in her interview, some questions raised whether Azerbaijan is capable of supplying Europe with agricultural products.
In a comment for Azernews on the issue economic expert Eyyub Karimly said that Azerbaijan’s export potential of citrus fruits is not big. He mentioned that due to seasonal factors and climatic conditions, citrus fruits do not fully meet domestic demand.
“Even recently, the government exempted citrus fruits from customs duties for the next year. This suggests that there are insufficient amount of citrus fruits in Azerbaijan. As for the export of nuts, Azerbaijan is one of the top five countries in the world. Of course, this area can be expanded further, and the European market is a very large and suitable market for this. This can bring additional currency to Azerbaijan and have a positive impact on the development of the non-oil and gas sector,” the expert said.
E.Karimly pointed out that the fruits and vegetables produced by Azerbaijan, such as pomegranates, persimons, apples and tomatoes, for which the European market is suitable, and we can expand cooperation with other EU countries, especially Germany, in this field. He emphasized that the main buyer of Azerbaijan's agricultural products is Russia, and the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war has a negative impact on agricultural production.
“In such a case, the entry of Azerbaijan's agricultural products to the European market can be a great opportunity for Azerbaijani farmers. Recently extensive agreements were signed between Azerbaijan and Lithuania, and through Lithuania's 7 free economic zones, we can further increase our agricultural products to the European Union,” the economist noted.
He also added that Azerbaijan should not be limited by only exporting agricultural products to Europe, it must apply EU-specific agro-technologies in Azerbaijan in order to increase the productivity of Azerbaijani farmers. According to him, this can create conditions for the expansion of productivity and the development of agriculture and the quality production in Azerbaijan.
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