TANGIBLE RESULTS OF IMPORT SUBSTITUTION
Turkmenistan has been famous for its special attitude to horticulture since ancient times. The Turkmen people have always paid special attention to landscape gardening in the cities and villages. The gardens of ancient Nisa, Merv and other cities could well compete with the gardens of Semiramis. The cities were literally buried in greenery, hiding houses and other buildings in their shade.
Horticulture is now on the rise in Turkmenistan. Production of various fruits increases every year in the country, and the number of entrepreneurs producing the much needed agricultural products using modern technologies is growing. Rich harvests make it possible to not only meet the domestic demand for fruits but also export them with great profit.
A state program adopted in May 2015 to increase exports of products manufactured in Turkmenistan provided a powerful incentive for development of horticulture in the country. It prioritized six main sectors of the economy, including agriculture and foodstuffs, and defined a list of products to be produced for export as well as enterprises to be constructed for this purpose.
This program aims to increase exports and develop strategic cooperation with foreign countries. It stipulates that the agro-industrial complex provides great opportunities to increase exports on the one hand and ensure import substitution with domestic production on the other.
Turkmenistan previously produced predominantly grapes, melons and watermelons on an industrial scale in amounts sufficient to feed the domestic market. As for other fruits such as apples, pears, peaches, plums and others, their domestic production was limited, and such fruits had to be imported.
The state program adopted in 2015 directed local farmers to cultivate a wide range of fruits and berries, including exotic ones, not only to saturate the domestic market but also export surpluses of the vitamin-rich products.
A number of measures aimed at supporting the national agro-industrial complex contributed to the growth of the national agro-industry in the following years. This trend continued this year, even amid the global pandemic crisis. So, along with growing grain, cotton and vegetables, Turkmenistan consistently develops horticulture and viticulture.
Nowadays, horticulture is one of the priority areas for development of agribusiness in Turkmenistan. The fruit and vegetable sector is being actively developed in the fields allocated by the state authorities to private enterprises specializing in this industry. The number of individual enterprises-members of the Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs of Turkmenistan (UIET) specializing in production of vegetables and fruits is growing every year.
OJSC “Miwe” is one of the largest enterprises in this area. This company is implementing a large-scale project on 1200 hectares of land in Akhal province, which provides for cultivation of orchards of various fruit trees: dates, apple, pear, peach, plum, almond and walnut. The project also provides for construction of reservoirs (80 hectares), greenhouses (80 hectares) fitted with modern equipment for growing bananas, harvested twice a year. There are already apple, pear, plum, peach and walnut orchards planted a year ago in the vastness of the province. These trees are expected to bear fruits in 2022. In addition to orchards, the joint-stock company boasts fruit processing shops and refrigerated warehouses for storing crops.
Horticulturists of “Erkingurlushik” individual enterprise from Mary province were among the first in the country to use shading nets for gardens beginning 2019, and they also introduced modern irrigation technologies. Such solutions, which are widely used in Europe, significantly improve the growth of fruit trees, especially in arid climates. Special nets protect fruits from gusty winds and sunburn and protect the soil from rapid evaporation of moisture. They understood the advantages of nets when they shaded several dozen hectares of an apple orchard planted two years ago. Fruit tree seedlings have taken root and have already bore their first fruits. Farmers plan to annually increase the garden area by 20–30 hectares.
Experience of individual enterprise “Eziz Ulkam” (native land) is another successful example of the implementation of the presidential decree on import substitution. New fields allocated for the enterprise in the village of Sayvan of Bakharden district were developed in a short time. A reservoir was built for water collecting, accumulating and settling water and tree watering. The village of Sayvan is located in the picturesque high-mountain valley of Western Kopetdag. People have long settled in this area, which is rich in water sources and magnificent pastures. This is evidenced by archaeological mounds, ruins of stone fortresses and old mausoleums located mainly in the vicinity of Sayvan.
Trees were planted in the area totaling 200 hectares, of which 100 hectares already produce fruits. There were planted dwarf varieties of early, mid-season and late fruit trees of apple, pear and peach. Cherry plantations were also planted this year. In the future, the enterprise plans to expand the planting area and diversify the range of fruits. Fruits are harvested through the mechanized method with the maximum use of technical means. Fruits are harvested, sorted and packed in special containers and transported by special machines to storage refrigerators and sent to trade shops, when required. In the future, following saturation of the domestic market, fruits can be exported.
Increasing the production of horticultural products will reduce import dependence and contribute to saving foreign exchange funds of the state. In addition, it will offer more jobs to the local population.
In October 2020, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) published a guide to Central Asian fruit and vegetable exporters. It says that the Turkmen agribusiness exports at least 15 types of fresh and processed fruits and vegetables abroad. They are popular in 8 countries in Asia and Europe. Along with tomatoes, tomato paste, onions, carrots, beets and cabbage, Turkmenistan also exports other agricultural products such as lemons, melons, grapes, strawberries, fruit chips and other products to Austria, the UAE, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Belarus, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkey and other countries.
Many Turkmen agricultural companies plan to expand the geography of their exports. They want to enter the markets of Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Qatar, India, Sri Lanka and Turkey. Some entrepreneurs also look at European countries as a promising market for their products.
The European Union also supports Turkmen agronomists and greenhouse owners. The Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection and the UIET hold seminars to share the experience of foreign experts in establishing greenhouses with national producers and inform them of opportunities for expanding cooperation. Along with the production of vegetables and flowers, they discuss opportunities for greenhouse production of citrus fruits. At the same time, special attention is paid to the phytosanitary requirements for export of fruit and vegetable products to the EU countries, once again confirming the realistic plans of Turkmen horticulturalists.
The further development of horticulture was incentivized by the government decision of November 2020 to provide agricultural producers with a 99-year lease of land plots from the land fund of Turkmenistan for growing crops that are included in the public procurement plan. At the same time, it is suggested that 70 percent of land should be allocated for growing wheat, cotton and other agricultural crops included in the public procurement plan. The remaining land can be planted with other crops.
All sectors of the national economy, including the agro-industrial sector, presented their achievements at the International Exhibition held on December 1–12, 2020 on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of Turkmenistan’s permanent neutrality. According to the UIET, most of the agricultural products in the country are grown by farms and businesses. More than one hundred greenhouse farms occupying the total area of over 356 450 hectares have been established. No less than 150 greenhouses with the total area of 1,300 1,500 hectares may be established already next year. This will allow growing tens of thousands of tons of vegetables, citrus fruits and fruit crops in greenhouses.
Over the past few years, Turkmenistan has increased several times the production of melons and gourds, fruit and berry products. Turkmen farmers work out plans to increase production by developing new irrigated lands, planting additional crops, fruit trees and grapes on these lands and expanding the area for greenhouses. This makes it possible to saturate the domestic market and increase exports.
In the northern province of Dashoguz, orchards occupy several thousand hectares of fertile land, in which farmers combine innovations and age-old traditions of land use to increase harvests and cultivate the varieties that adapted well to the climatic conditions of the region.
“Turkmenistan is a unique region with great opportunities for fruit growing, USAID expert, Doctor of Agricultural Sciences Sergey Oleichenko (Kazakhstan) said. The country has preserved its historical heritage in this area. For example, everyone knows Turkmen apples. A lot is said about them in literary sources. This is a national treasure that Turkmenistan can be rightfully proud of.”
According to the expert, there is now an “investment boom” in horticulture in Turkmenistan. The Turkmen nature is also favorable for growing nut crops. This area is now being actively developed. USAID works jointly with the UIET to acquaint local farmers with new methods and technologies to improve quality and increase quantity of products, improve export potential and create new jobs in rural areas.
The fruit and vegetable sector is growing fast in Turkmenistan thanks to the allocation of fields by the state authorities to private enterprises specializing in this industry. The number of individual enterprises specializing in the production of vegetables and fruits, predominantly in the northern region, grows every year. Similarly, the volume of production of horticultural products increases.
In October, the President of Turkmenistan held a working meeting with members of the government, discussing the implementation of the Program of Development of the Agricultural Complex, strengthening food security, transition of the agro-industrial complex to the digital platform and increasing food production.
It was noted at the meeting that in 2021 Turkmenistan plans to significantly expand the sown area for cultivation of fruits and vegetables and other agricultural products and increase the volume of harvests. It was also noted that thousands of fruit trees and grapes are planted in the country every year, and more fields are allocated for such plantations.
It was also noted that in January-September 2020 the output of agricultural and food products increased by more than 30 31.2 percent compared to the same period of the previous year. Modern greenhouses were built throughout the country, fruit trees and vineyards were planted, which made it possible to start growing selected fruits and grapes and saturate the domestic market with them.
There is a growing number of processing enterprises producing dried fruits and fruit juices on an industrial scale. The enterprises built under the import substitution program now produce various food products.
President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov noted the importance of continuing the large-scale work on import substitution, intensification of development of agriculture and processing industries and increasing the range of competitive products manufactured in Turkmenistan. The head of state stressed that Turkmenistan would continue supporting the entrepreneurial initiative in the production of import-substituting and export-oriented products and expanding their range. He issued instructions to increase planting of fruit trees and vineyards with the view of increasing the output of fruit products and grapes in the country and saturating the domestic market.
The President of Turkmenistan instructed the Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs to accelerate the pace of development of agricultural land and construction of new greenhouses in order to increase the volume of vegetable and melon and fruit products in the country. He also instructed the UIET to accelerate the commissioning of additional refrigerated warehouses to ensure year-round supply of vegetables and fruits to consumers. The government was also instructed to step up work on the implementation of state programs aimed at increasing the production of import-substituting and export-oriented products in the country.
At present, almost 40 thousand hectares have been allocated for fruit orchards in the country. The emphasis falls on intensive gardening with modern technologies that help to ensure a three-fold harvest increase even from small plots of land.