By Abdul Kerimkhanov
Azerbaijan pays special attention to the implementation of agrarian reforms and the development of agriculture, which is one of the main areas of the non-oil sector.
Production in the agriculture, hunting and fishing sector increased by an annual average of approximately 4.6 percent from 2015-2018 to more than $4 billion in 2018, according to the book published by the German-Azerbaijani Chamber of Commerce.
For 2019-2020, the government expects annual average growth of 4.7 percent. The food and beverage industry, with annual production worth around $2 billion, accounts for about one-third of the output from Azerbaijan’s manufacturing industry.
The agriculture, hunting and fishing sector contributed approximately 5.5 percent of the country’s added value in 2017 and employed 1.8 million people, two-fifths of the Azerbaijani workforce.
The programmes for expanding the manufacture and processing of agricultural products that have been adopted in recent years and those still at the planning stage should contribute to greater self-sufficiency in the food and beverage industry, as well as to increased exports from the non-oil sector. The expansion initiatives apply to product groups including nuts, citrus fruits, tea, rice, tobacco, wine, livestock production and the fishing industry.
Hazelnuts are now among the country’s main export goods after oil and gas products. In 2017 exports rose by 30 percent to 20,800 tonnes, compared with 2016. In the first half of 2018, exports increased by 34 percent to 6,700 tonnes. Exports were worth $114.5 million in 2017. Industry experts expect annual exports worth $150-200 million in the near future.
Areas under hazelnut cultivation are expected to increase to at least 80,000 hectares by 2022. The output is expected to be higher than in 2016 and 2017 given the high growth rates. In 2017, country produced 45,500 tonnes of hazelnuts.
Azerbaijan intends to rank among the wine nations once more and there are good opportunities to do that. The country has long-standing winemaking traditions, a climate favourable to viticulture and good export prospects.
A new State Program for the Development of Winemaking provides for the creation of new value chains for wine production in 2018-2025. As many as 18.7 million litres of wine are expected to be produced in 2025, compared with 11.3 million litres in 2017. There are 23 winemakers in the country, and 18 of them are engaged in export.
The expansion programme for citrus fruit will double annual production to 100,000 tonnes by 2025, compared with 52,000 tonnes in 2017. A part of the future production is intended for export markets. Azerbaijan mainly produces tangerines (35,200 tonnes in 2017), feijoas (9,200 tonnes) and lemons (4,600 tonnes).
Azerbaijan has ambitious plans for pomegranate production. The Azerbaijan Pomegranate Manufacturers and Exporters Association reports that construction of a processing complex is planned for 2019-2021; it will cost about $15 million. The project is for the construction of two factories to produce pomegranate concentrate and juices and two further plants to shell and process seed.
Pomegranate production almost doubled during 2012-2017, from 82,500 tonnes to 156,800 tonnes. Russia is currently the main market for Azerbaijani pomegranates. From 2019, producers also intend to increase exports of unprocessed pomegranates, mainly to EU countries.
Tea and tobacco
The development programme for the tea industry in 2018-2027 envisages expansion of the area under cultivation to 3,000 hectares and annual production to 8,500 tonnes. From 2015-2017, the country harvested annually an average of 800 tonnes of tea. Recent successful projects in this sector include the Astarachay Tea Production and Processing Complex, established in 2015. The company’s daily capacity is 12 tonnes of black and green teas. An increase to 24 tonnes is planned.
The implementation of the expansion programme for the tobacco industry is making relatively rapid progress in 2017- 2021. By 2017, production had already increased to 5,300 tonnes, compared with around 3,500 tonnes in the two previous years. The government expects production to be worth $45 million in 2019 and to increase by 20 percent annually by 2022.
Abdul Kerimkhanov is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow him on Twitter: @AbdulKerim94
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