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World Bank Boosts Kyrgyzstan’s Agricultural Productivity and Climate Resilience

The World Bank has announced funding of $30 million to help boost the productivity and climate resilience of Kyrgyzstan’s dairy and horticulture agri-food clusters. The project will be complemented by a $5 million grant from the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program. “Recognizing agriculture as a cornerstone of the Kyrgyz Republic's economy, the World Bank prioritizes the sector alongside energy and water in its new 2024-2028 Country Partnership Framework. The new project marks the beginning of a series of initiatives designed to support the Cabinet of Ministers' vision for a modernized, competitive, and climate-resilient agricultural sector," reported Tatiana Proskuryakova, World Bank Regional Director for Central Asia. Running until 2029, the initiative will help producers, processors, and other value chain participants to improve the quality and volume of their produce, access to markets through investment loans, training and capacity building, seed system enhancement, breeding, and information management. It will also focus on enhancing climate adaptation and mitigation through the promotion of climate-smart technologies as well as the employment of digital technology for accessing market information. The project will directly support 8,000 beneficiaries including individual farmers and producers, producer groups, small and medium processors, and other value chain participants in the agri-food clusters of dairy and horticulture. Indirect beneficiaries, numbering 20,000, will comprise farming communities and households of loan and training recipients, in addition to members of broader rural communities who will be afforded better jobs and opportunities to generate income.

Kazakhstan Poised to Battle Bombardment of Locusts

At a government meeting on locust control on March 28th, Kazakhstan’s Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Azat Sultanov reported that this year, locust swarms are predicted to hit 2.5 million hectares of agricultural land in Kazakhstan, compared to 1.6 million hectares in 2023. The largest locust invasions are expected in the regions of Aktobe (784 thousand hectares), Kostanay (776 thousand hectares), and Turkestan (271 thousand hectares). The country currently has enough stock of pesticides to treat 1.1 million hectares of land. Including pre-orders of chemicals to cover a further 323.6 thousand hectares, and new contracts to treat 607.5 thousand hectares, the central warehouse will be equipped to treat 2.09 million hectares by April 20th. The southern Turkestan region will likewise, begin treating its territory with chemical treatments against locusts at the end of the month. Kazakhstan has seen a drastic increase in agricultural land being hit by locusts, rising from 514,000 hectares in 2020 to 1.6 million hectares in 2023, and is expected to peak in 2024. According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, locust outbreaks pose a severe threat to agriculture in the South Caucasus and Central Asia, with more than 25 million hectares and 20 million people in the region rendered vulnerable by damage inflicted by these migratory pests.

Uzbek Reforms Already Being Felt in Agriculture

The Uzbek news agency UzA reports that according to the Institute of Macroeconomic and Regional Studies, the ongoing reforms in Uzbekistan have had a positive effect on agriculture. Cotton yield has increased by 1.5 times in the last year, and wheat production has grown by 13%. Changes in legislation related to trade liberalization and export promotion have helped to increase exports of fruits and vegetables by 1.8 times in the last five years, to $1.2 billion. Uzbek authorities plan to introduce a program to subsidize 50% of farmers' insurance premiums. This program calls for all farm subsidies to be provided through a single platform called 'Agrosubsidiya', based on the "one-window" concept for digital municipal services.

Turkmenistan’s Government-Supplied Agricultural Services Soar in Cost

The prices for several services provided by the state to farmers in Turkmenistan have increased several times over, according to a report from news portal after reviewing documents showing the old and new prices for government goods and services. The price levels in the table are separated by different productivity per hectare, which, in turn, depends on the specific area of the crop. The table defines six stages of medium-fiber cotton yield from 7 (previously 6.4) to 40 centners (one centner is 100kg) per hectare. The price of mineral fertilizers for 1 hectare was 146.64 manat ($7.5 at market rate) in the past, but since the start of 2024 it has increased to 878.7 manats ($45). Seeds for 1 hectare were delivered for 38.83 manat ($2), and now for 103.51 manats ($5). It used to cost 53.88 manat ($2.50) to irrigate 1 hectare of land, but now it costs 208.6 ($10.50). The table also calculates the income of farmers based on all these costs. Before the recent increase in cotton and grain prices, the lowest-yielding tenants received 960 manat ($49) per hectare, and after all subtractions, they were left with just 8.6 manat ($0.40). For fields of the high productivity category - 40 centners per hectare, the standard initial income is 20,000 manat ($1,000), and after fees for state services - 15,000 manat ($770) per hectare. Tenants typically farm from three to 20 hectares, often up to five hectares, depending on their means. These are mostly useless, low-fertility croplands. There remains one glaring problem beyond the price hikes for government services and goods. In practice, farmers' costs aren't limited to payments for the aforementioned services. Firstly, farmers have plenty of informal costs. For example, a tractor driver hired by a farmer doesn't go to the field for free; they should be paid at least 100 additional manat just for showing up. Furthermore, things like timely supply of high-quality and mold-free seeds and fertilizers, the battle with chronic drought - all of these hindrances require large amounts of money to overcome. Second, the official quotas for fertilizer distribution by the state are greatly underestimated. Under government guidelines, 370 kilograms of urea and 500 kilograms of nitrogen are allocated for each hectare. According to the calculations of experienced farmers, at least 600 kilograms of urea are needed per hectare. But it's impossible to get that much at the state price, so one must buy additional fertilizers from private traders at a completely different, higher price. As a result, many villagers hand over their crops to the state and become indebted for all the above services. Villagers are looking for all kinds of additional ways to earn money, most of which are illegal. So, they rent fields for cotton and grain, but at the same time they grow vegetables on a part of the land. But this requires a more expensive rent payment and a separate contract. The result is that most of the farmers are giving up farming altogether and attempting...

Kazakhstan and Qatar to Implement Projects Worth $17.6 Billion

On March 20th the Prime Minister of Kazakhstan Olzhas Bektenov attended a meeting in Qatar with the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. During discussions, Bektenov emphasized the importance of the two countries’ economic partnership in the Arab world and reported on the imminent implementation of large-scale and strategically significant investment projects worth an unprecedented amount of $17.6 billion. The governments of Kazakhstan and Qatar subsequently signed an agreement on establishing a long-term strategic partnership for the development of projects in priority sectors. Projects include the construction of gas processing plants in Kazakhstan at a cost of around $5.7 billion. The additional construction of a Aktobe-Kostanay gas pipeline and the second section of the Beineu-Bozoy-Shymkent gas pipeline for a total cost of around $7.7 billion, will develop gas supplies to Kazakhstan's northern regions. A further investment of around $2.7 billion will fund the construction of a combined cycle gas power plant with a capacity of 1,100 MW, and a hydroelectric power plant with a capacity of 350 MW, to ensure long-term energy security of Kazakhstan. With reference to agriculture, the Prime Minister declared Kazakhstan’s readiness to supply halal and organic products to Qatar, and stated that the two countries are on course to construct plants for the deep processing of wheat, peas and milk in Kazakhstan.

FAO to Improve Soil Health In Uzbekistan

Earlier this month, The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and its Global Soil Partnership (GSP), in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture of Uzbekistan, held a seminar in Tashkent on the ‘Recarbonization of Agricultural Soils’ (RECSOIL). The meeting concluded with unanimous approval of the development of an action plan for the development of the initiative in Uzbekistan. RECSOIL will be implemented in collaboration with two other FAO projects in Uzbekistan funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF): ‘Integrated Natural Resources Management in Drought-Prone and Salt-Affected Agricultural Production Landscapes in Central Asia and Turkey’ and ‘Sustainable Forest and Rangelands Management in the Dryland Ecosystems of Uzbekistan.’ In recent years, both projects have proven effective in supporting agricultural development in drought-prone regions of Uzbekistan through the use of advanced resource-saving methods, and continue to increase farmers’ incomes through the contribution of technical equipment to farms, and by maintaining land degradation neutrality. The initiative addresses challenges related to climate change by promoting sustainable soil management (SSM) and by enhancing its health, make soil more productive and shock resilient. Aimed at maintaining and increasing carbon stocks to boost soil health which in turn, will secure and increase production and income, SSM practices include using cover crops, crop rotation and agroforestry. The new scheme to tackle both carbon sequestration and mitigation of greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions, will be piloted through the provision of training for farmers and financial compensation to support their adoption of SSM practices. RECSOIL also provides robust methods to monitor and assess both soil health and levels of GHG emissions reduced through the project.

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