GRAIN WEALTH RESERVES OF TURKMENISTAN
Wheat is grown in many countries, but the world’s only wheat museum can be found in Turkmenistan. Located in the city of Annau, the administrative center of Akhal province, the Ak Bugday (White Wheat) National Museum was built in 2005 at the site where the archaeological expedition led by American Rafael Pumpelli discovered 5000-year-old wheat grains in 1904.
The museum keeps very ancient grains as well as stone grain grinders, hand millstones, a bronze hoe, fragments of pottery, figurines of the goddesses of fertility, whose age dates back to the 4th-2nd millennia BC. Sheaves of wheat of the varieties that are considered the achievements of modern breeders serve as a complement to the museum collection.
The museum’s exhibits provide evidence of the ancient tradition of wheat growing on the Turkmen land and the great respect that bread enjoys in Turkmenistan. It is no coincidence that Chorek (Turkmen flatbread) is considered to be a symbol of unity and prosperity of people.
One of the most important sectors of the agro-industrial complex of Turkmenistan’s economy has developed steadily in the past few years, providing high yields of wheat that proves the achievement of food security on one of the main food products. Turkmenistan annually achieves high yields of wheat (at least 1.4 million tons), which is enough not only for domestic consumption but also for exports.
The current year 2021 is no exception. It is a jubilee year marking the 30th anniversary of Turkmenistan’s independence. Grain growers began grain harvesting on June 4, and already on June 30 they sent a report to the head of state on fulfillment of their contractual obligations to harvest 1.4 million tons of wheat. At the same time, there still remained some wheat in the fields. That is why President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, while congratulating the farmers on the fulfillment of the plan, instructed them to continue harvesting the remaining wheat “without losing a single grain.”
In total, 2111 Claas, John Deere, Case, New Holland grain harvesters were used in the 2021 harvest campaign. Working around the clock in two shifts, these modern harvesters helped farmers to quickly harvest a rich crop without loss. During the harvesting campaign, hundreds of mobile repair and mechanical teams served grain growers around the clock, supplying them with everything they needed, including fuel, fuels and lubricants, spare parts for equipment.
About 11 thousand trucks from various ministries and departments were used to deliver wheat to 150 granaries, warehouses and elevators. The local branches of the State Commercial Bank “Dayhanbank” ensured timely payments to grain growers for the harvested crop.
In 2020, Turkmenistan reduced the sowing area for wheat. This and the past year, 690 thousand hectares of land were allocated for wheat in contrast to previous years when this crop was sown on 760 thousand hectares.
By signing a decree on wheat production in 2020 and reduction in sowing areas for this crop, Berdimuhamedov explained this decision by the need to ensure the country’s food security. At the same time, the spare fields were allocated for sowing cotton in accordance with the adopted programs to increase exports of products.
The stability in wheat production was achieved just a few years ago due to comprehensive measures taken by the government to improve the efficiency of the agricultural sector in general and grain production in particular. Indeed, back in 2017-2018, a little more than 1 million tons of wheat was harvested from 760 thousand hectares against annual government orders of 1.6 million tons.
Turkmenistan has created all relevant conditions for farmers to grow high yields of wheat, cotton, rice, sugar beet and other crops, thus ensuring food abundance in the country.
The first meeting of the Khalk Maslakhaty (People’s Council) of Turkmenistan in 2018 was an important milestone in the development of the country’s agricultural sector. In his keynote speech at the national forum, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov outlined the urgent tasks to bring the agro-industrial complex to qualitatively new level, including increasing the profitability of agriculture, efficient use of land and water resources, improving reclamation of agricultural lands, providing irrigation water, widespread introduction of market mechanisms and attracting private entrepreneurs to the industry.
In November 2020, the President of Turkmenistan signed a decree approving the special agricultural land fund that provided land plots on a long-term lease for joint-stock companies, farms and other agricultural producers for a period of 99 years.
At the same time, at least 70 percent of land should be used for growing wheat, cotton and other agricultural crops according to the state contract. The remaining land can be sown with other crops, and the surplus of the grown products can be used by producers at their own discretion or sold to the state.
The presidential decree ordering the increase in state purchase prices for wheat and cotton starting from the 2019 harvest was another incentive for farmers to increase the yield of crops in the country.
The President of Turkmenistan also signed the decree “On financial support to agricultural producers in the country,” according to which farmers’ associations and farms, agricultural joint-stock companies and research institutes, tenants, private entrepreneurs and other agricultural producers can receive preferential bank loans for up to 10 years, including for the purchase of agricultural machinery, excavators, bulldozers, other equipment at the annual interest rate of 1 percent.
Therefore, the current policy on reforming the agro-industrial complex is aimed at strengthening food abundance, innovative modernization of the industry, increasing profitability and exporting competitive products to international markets.
Turkmenistan purchases various agricultural machinery and equipment from well-known world manufacturers to further support the material and technical base of the industry. This in turn contributes to the timely and high-quality work. John Deere is one of the long-standing partners of Turkmen farmers. Turkmenistan has been purchasing John Deere equipment for over 25 years now. In the period of cooperation, about 8 thousand units of various agricultural equipment of this brand have been delivered to Turkmenistan. Private businesses have recently begun to purchase agricultural machinery and equipment from John Deere using preferential bank loans.
In addition, from 2017 to 2020 alone, about one thousand Claas combines were purchased and handed over to the farms. Their systems are controlled by an on-board computer. And operators of these harvesters enjoy comfortable working conditions thanks to the climate control in the cab, when the temperature outside goes above 41 degrees Celsius.
Enlarging the fleet of modern, highly productive agricultural machinery and equipment creates preconditions for improving the quality of work, increasing land productivity and obtaining high yields.
The tasks of technical and technological modernization of the industry are currently being addressed on an innovative basis, taking into account the Concept for Development of the Digital Economy in Turkmenistan. In particular, John Deere and Claas special equipment, purchased in 2013–2019, are being gradually upgraded with a telematic digital electronic control system.
State contracts for purchase of grain, exemption of farmers from taxes, provision of maintenance services, seeds, mineral fertilizers and plant protection agents on preferential terms - all these measures of financial and economic incentives for agricultural producers lead to tangible results, raise farmers’ interest in the outcome of their work.
Agricultural scientists, research centers at agricultural universities play an important role in building the capacity of the agro-industrial complex and the grain-growing industry in particular. For example, comprehensive selection work is now underway at the agricultural research and production center of the Turkmen Agricultural Institute in the city of Dashoguz to create new varieties of wheat. The international practice shows that only local varieties of seeds can produce high and stable yields. Key areas of this work include increasing productivity, grain quality and resistance to disease, winter cold and lodging.
In 2020 alone, Dashoguz breeders created two new varieties of winter wheat and named them “Turkmenistan” and “Bitarap-25”. They are distinguished by high yield and greater resistance to drought, various pests and diseases. The yield of these varieties averaged 80–83 centners per hectare that significantly exceeded the indicator of the standard “Sakhrai” variety.
According to experts of the Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs of Turkmenistan, Turkmen wheat is very popular among local businessmen for its quality. It makes excellent flour for bakery and confectionery industries.
It is important that in accordance with the state programs of socio-economic development of Turkmenistan a lot of work has been done in the country for improvement of life in the regions. As a result of this work, not only the production sector of the agro-industrial complex but also the social infrastructure of villages received a powerful impetus for the further development. From year to year, villagers enjoy better living conditions, their material well-being is growing, and their standard of living improves.