Turkmenistan modernises agricultural infrastructure

A developed food sector is flooding the market with domestic produce, replacing similar imported goods, analysts say.

By Dzhumaguly Annayev

2014-08-19

ASHGABAT – Turkmenistan's leadership is aiming to create an abundance of foods at home by boosting production and processing of produce and animal products, media reported in July.

That trend comes as good news for the public, because new grain elevators, livestock farms and greenhouses, as well as capacity for producing baked goods, candy, sausages and dairy products, will provide jobs and reduce unemployment.

"The consumer market is gradually changing to benefit our own producers," Palvan Khezretov, a former commodities scientist at the Ministry of Trade, said.

"At the beginning of the millennium, 95% of goods in the food category were of foreign origin," he said. "This figure has shrunk ... to about 65-70%."

Flour a shining example

Flour was cited as an example that has seen a turn-around.

"Consumers now prefer domestic flour, which in certain respects (iron and folic acid content) is better than imported flour," Khezretov said.

State-owned Turkmengallaonumleri (Turkmen Bread Products) attributed that victory to two factors.

The first is that the country's tenant grain farmers were able to supply all the wheat the country needed. The second is that flour-milling complexes equipped with the latest technology, including the new elevators.

"In June this year alone, we simultaneously began using eight new elevators with total capacity for 360,000 tonnes of wheat. … We've installed everywhere the latest equipment from Italy, Switzerland and other European countries," Orazly Gugeldiyev, an engineer-technologist at Turkmengallaonumleri, said.

Progress coming in other products

A similar breakthrough is expected soon in meat and dairy categories in which imports still command high market share.

"Now, under one $2m [5.7m TMT] contract alone, Turkmenistan is procuring whole-fat dehydrated milk from Belarus, Poland and Ukraine," Ministry of Economic Development economist Begench Charyyev said. "But soon there will be enough local fresh milk on the market."

New livestock-farming complexes began operation in July in Akhal and Dashoguz oblasts. "These complexes are designed to hold 1,000 head of cattle and to produce 4,000 tonnes of milk and 150 tonnes of meat per annum each, and also to produce 20 different kinds of dairy products," Charyyev said.

Consumers are already beginning to benefit from the arrival of local food producers on the market, according to specialists.

"Instead of imported buffalo meat in tasteless briquettes, customers are now eagerly buying expensive but tasty beef or lamb slaughtered locally, and instead of imported chicken thighs, consumers are turning toward products by the local Gush Tollumi poultry complex," Palvan Khezretov, who has years of experience in selling food, said.

However, Turkmenistan lags far behind foreign suppliers in such areas as vegetables, fruit, sugar, butter and eggs, many in the Ministry of Economic Development say.

"We are suggesting the development of fruit and vegetable growing, which will enable the existing vegetable- and fruit-canning facilities to be used to their full capacity," Charyyev said.

Emphasis on private producers

Dynamic growth in farm production already is happening. In the first six months of 2014, compared to the same period last year, production of fruit and vegetables is up 2.4%, of meat 1.8% and of milk 3.3%, according to government statistics.

For further growth, private producers need active encouragement and conditions for efficient and fully appreciated work, specialists consider.

"At this stage, the state should be concerning itself with the diversification of agricultural produce, allocating more land for orchards, kitchen gardens and vineyards, and should free some tenant farmers from the obligation to grow cotton or wheat," Gugleldiyev said.

The country's main hopes rest on private producers.

"Our private producers are as good as educated market analysts," Gugleldiyev said. "They can instantly figure out what the market craves today and what it'll want tomorrow. Then they begin to grow what the customers want."

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