In the near future, bananas, turkeys and even alligators may become regular products of the agro-industrial complex of Turkmenistan, along with Central Asia's traditional cotton, melons and watermelons. The availability of such "exotic" products in the domestic market demonstrates the ambition of the government-supported strategy of diversification of the agricultural sector in Turkmenistan.
Turkmen private company "Maksada Okgunly" plans to purchase alligators from the United States and build a farm in Ahal region occupying an area of 5.5 hectares for breeding and keeping of up to 180 species of these animals that are so strange for Turkmen nature. The company currently breeds turkeys on an area of 250 hectares, maintaining a full-fledged production chain - from incubators to slaughterhouses. The company decided to open an alligator farm as a cost-effective measure for disposal of organic waste from the turkey breeding complex.
The company took into account the ability of alligators to reproduce in the hot climatic conditions of the Turkmen Karakum desert. Given the fact that one alligator lays up to 100 eggs at a time, such a farm promises to be very profitable. Indeed, crocodile leather is highly valued in the world market.
Moreover, the company plans to become Turkmenistan's first company offering agro-tourism services. "Alligators have always attracted people's attention. We will be able to organize tours, including a turkey breeding complex and a crocodile farm," says the company coordinator. This farm will perhaps become a rare exotic in the process of diversification of the Turkmen agro-industrial complex. At the same time, bananas and pineapples may well be included in the list of mass agricultural products grown in Turkmenistan as part of the government-supported import substitution program.
For example, while getting acquainted with the development of the agro-industrial sector in the regions of the country in June of this year, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov visited one of the greenhouses of Dashoguz province. When he saw that individual enterprise "Altyn Tug" was successful in growing tomatoes, strawberries, bell peppers, the head of state noted that growing pineapples in greenhouses could also be a profitable business. In turn, the head of the greenhouse complex shared with the head of state his plans to start growing bananas. Moreover, there are already farms in Turkmenistan that have started a "banana" business. The head of state proposed to look into the opportunities of exporting the crops and stressed that entrepreneurs would be supported in exporting the grown products to the foreign markets.
As for the Turkmen bananas, the first harvest was picked in March 2019 in one of the greenhouses of Mary province.
The plant, which is exotic for Turkmenistan, flourished well in the favorable environment created for its growth and began to bear fruit profusely. One "tree" gives 40-45 kilograms of bananas daily that are sold quickly in the markets of the country. Their clear advantage over imported bananas is that they are cheaper and, naturally, fresher because of incomparably shorter route from the field to the selling point.
The head of state has regularly reminded the workers of the agricultural complex of the task to reduce imports of agricultural products and replace them with domestic products grown on the generous Turkmen land in a favorable sunny climate.
In 2020, the President instructed to expand the areas for cultivation of vegetables and melons, potatoes and other crops, increase their production and reduce imports of similar agricultural products. "The domestic market should be saturated with domestic products," Berdimuhamedov stressed.
Speaking of the importance of enhancing labor productivity in the industry, the President emphasizes that the pace of work on the introduction of an electronic control system in the country's agro-industrial complex should be intensified.
He outlined the priority tasks facing the agricultural workers at a working meeting with the heads of the agro-industrial complex in March of this year. Berdimuhamedov instructed them to ensure a gradual transition of the industry to the innovative path of development.
Particular importance should be attached to the widespread introduction of scientific achievements into production processes, making it possible to increase soil fertility and raise the level of crop yield.
As was noted, significant investments are made in re-equipment of the material and technical base of the agro-industrial complex. The technical fleet is being upgraded through the purchase of high-performance machinery and equipment. Equipment maintenance services are provided to farmers on preferential terms, along with water for irrigation, mineral fertilizers, seeds and chemicals.
Emphasizing the importance of digitalization of agriculture, the head of state noted that this measure should help improve labor efficiency and ensure the sustainable development of the industry as a whole. Practical steps that have been taken to this effect contribute to the timely implementation of agro-technical measures, harvesting crops without loss, proper registration of land and efficient use of water resources.
Cotton and grain growing, livestock and poultry sectors that constitute the basis of the country's food security naturally remain the priority areas in developing the agro-industrial complex of Turkmenistan.
By the end of June of this year, farmers of Turkmenistan fulfilled their obligation to harvest 1.400 million tons of wheat. Noting that the yield of wheat would be enough to ensure the country's food security, Berdimuhamedov said that the surplus of wheat could be exported.
It should be noted that it was for the first time that less land was allocated for wheat growing this year - 690 thousand hectares compared to 760 thousand hectares in previous years. The freed-up agricultural land was allocated for cotton, fruits and vegetable growing.
In the future, Turkmen grain growers also plan to grow the Russian varieties of wheat. This summer, several varieties of winter wheat bred by Russian breeders are being adapted at the experimental site of the Scientific and Production Testing Center. They are noted for high yields and resistance to many diseases and droughts which makes it possible to expect the continued growth in wheat production.
This autumn, cotton growers of Turkmenistan plan to harvest 1.25 million tons of cotton, which is 200 thousand tons more than in 2019. This year, the area sown with cotton was expanded from 550 to 620 thousand hectares. This decision was made taking into account the construction and commissioning of new textile enterprises and greater domestic demand for cotton products.
The newly bought "John Deere" seeders and tractors equipped with the telematic digital electronic system will be used in the fields to harvest cotton.
Cotton growing is an important specialization of agriculture in Turkmenistan. In general, up to 70 percent of the harvest is processed and 119 thousand tons of yarn and a wide range of textile products are produced in the country. However, the president has set a task to bring domestic cotton processing to 100 percent.
The textile industry is the second most profitable sector in Turkmenistan after oil and gas exports. The country boasts textile plants and factories producing environmentally friendly fabrics, yarns and other products on the basis of latest technologies.
Turkmen textiles are exported to more than 100 countries, including the USA, Canada, Russia and the UK. The opening of the Lapis-Lazuri transport route between Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan in 2018 made it possible to shorten the time of delivery of Turkmen products to the Turkish and European markets.
This year, one of the priority tasks of the agro-industrial complex is to increase potato production. To this end, it was decided not only to expand the sown area but also sow potato twice - in the spring and the second half of summer. At the same time, following the presidential instructions, the Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection signed a contract with VEYA INVEST LLC (Russian Federation) for the purchase of 14 thousand tons of winter potato seeds.
Public-private partnerships play a key role in building up the agricultural potential of Turkmenistan. Thanks to the government support, commodity producers implement large-scale investment projects in animal husbandry, poultry farming, crop production and processing industries.
The share of the private sector in agriculture exceeds 90 percent. Imports of food products decreased significantly against the background of increasing exports of fruits and vegetables. Farmer associations, joint stock companies, research institutes, tenants and private producers of agricultural products receive preferential loans to give a boost to agribusiness.
Following the decisions by the Khalk Maslakhaty (People's Council) and the government, a phased privatization of livestock farms is under way. In fact, four livestock complexes in Akhal, Lebap and Mary provinces were privatized in 2019 by the contractors of these new facilities, who are members of the Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs of Turkmenistan (UIET). The poultry complexes of the Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection built earlier in Balkan and Mary provinces were also privatized through direct sale to the UIET members.
In 2019, the government significantly raised procurement prices for food grains, cotton and silkworm cocoons. At the same time, land rent for farmers was minimized. They are now exempt from paying taxes. Farmers and farmer associations are also provided with equipment maintenance services, seeds, mineral fertilizers, irrigation water, etc. on preferential terms. Thus, more than half of expenses of grain growers enjoy state subsidies.
High mechanization and automation of labor is becoming a key factor to the further improvement of agricultural efficiency. Contracts were signed with "Umax Trade GmbH" (Germany), "John Deere International GmbH" (Switzerland), as well as Joint Stock Company "Uzsanoateksport" (Uzbekistan) for the purchase of a large quantity of agricultural machinery and equipment that Turkmenistan has been purchasing for a number of years now.
A concept on connecting agricultural machinery of regional associations of the Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection to the telematic digital system in three stages in 2019-2022 on the basis of the Memorandum on Understanding between the government of Turkmenistan and John Deere Walldorf GmbH & Co. KG was adopted during the first Caspian Economic Forum in the Avaza National Tourist Zone in August 2019.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection of Turkmenistan and John Deere Walldorf GmbH & Co. KG also signed a Memorandum of Understanding for 2020-2030 on introduction of the digital electronic control system in agricultural machinery and equipment.
In the next few years, high-performance agricultural machinery purchased by Turkmenistan in the period from 2013 to 2019 from John Deere and Claas will be equipped with telematics. This will make it possible to track through remote monitoring the location, fuel consumption, actual operating time, loads and many other parameters of the machinery. To this effect, preliminary tests of John Deere equipment with telemetric sensors are being carried out in the cotton fields of a number of districts of Ahal province.
So, precision farming begins already now. Introduction of digital technologies will help increase yields, significantly save the seed stock, fertilizers, plant protection products, water for irrigation and fuel.
Turkmenistan actively develops its processing industry, annually expanding the range of meat, dairy and fruit and vegetable products that are of the same quality as those imported products available in supermarkets. Meeting the domestic demand, Turkmen companies increasingly move to the international markets, exporting their products to the countries of near and far abroad.
For example, meeting via video link in July of this year, representatives of the chambers of commerce and industry of Turkmenistan and Astrakhan region of the Russian Federation discussed opportunities for development of the export-import potential. The sides looked into the issues related to exporting textile goods, cotton yarn and other Turkmen products to Astrakhan region.