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Kazakhstan plans increased organic soybean acreage

Kazakhstan's agriculture ministry looks to increase organic soybean acreage.

Kazakhstan, officially the Republic of Kazakhstan Selective focus.
Kazakhstan, officially the Republic of Kazakhstan Selective focus.

Following a trend of higher soybean harvests in recent years, the Kazakh agriculture ministry has announced plans to increase the area planted with soybean to 206,000 hectares (509,000 acres) over the next three years, and to encourage a return to organic production methods using modern technology.

2017's soybean area was 129,000 hectares, which compares with just 71,000 hectares in 2011, reports Azerbaijan’s Trend news agency, citing local media in Kazakhstan.

Over the same period, the country’s soybean harvest almost doubled to 252,000 metric tons last year. The main soybean growing area is the province of Almaty, which accounts for 83 percent of the total production.

New areas for soybean cultivation

Seeing potential growth in global demand for organic and other specialty crops, the government of the former Soviet republic is planning to use uncultivated land for the production of soybeans and other non-genetically modified (non-GMO) crops, according to a recent Bloomberg report.

A tenfold increase in the production of non-GMO soy is planned over the coming seven years, helping Kazakhstan to overcome the challenge of being a landlocked country by exporting crops not supplied by established and lower-cost exporters.

Reducing the dependency of the country’s farmers on fossil fuels, and returning to past organic production methods were already in discussion in 2015, reported Astana Times. A lack of legislation was blamed for holding up progress.

Around that time, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the government of Kazakhstan jointly developed a program framework, which included food safety and organic food production among its key priority areas.

The report concluded that, although Kazakhstan was among the world’s top 10 wheat exporters, water scarcity and a harsh climate would make that position unsustainable in the long term. This, and the fact that much of the remaining agricultural output was from subsistence farming, put the country at risk of food insecurity.

Among other actions, FAO agreed to support the program by providing expertise to help develop regulatory, inspection and certification systems for organic production.

As well as growing the country’s organic sector, Prime Minister Bakytzhan Sagintayey recently confirmed the government’s interest in the development of precision and irrigated agriculture based on new technologies, accelerated renewal of agricultural machinery, developments in livestock breeding, and modern agrarian science.

Third Agricultural Plan for Kazakhstan

Bringing uncultivated land into production and the quest to boost agricultural exports were key aspects of the latest plan to modernize the country announced by Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, at the start of 2018.

In a recent speech to an investment roundtable, Prime Minister Sagintayey said the main targets of the program are to increase labor productivity, encourage entrepreneurship, and boost processed agri-food output by a factor of 2.5 in the coming five years.

Regarding exports, agreement has already been reached with China, Iran and the United Arab Emirates over future trade, he said. Thirteen products — including frozen meat â€” are included in the trade deal with China.

Discussions took place in Kazakhstan this month with Australian-based Cedar Meats regarding the construction of a cattle feedlot and meat processing complex, 80 percent of whose output is destined for export, according to the website of the prime minister.

In March 2018, the U.S.Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Agricultural Research Service agreed to collaborate with Kazakhstan on research into rangeland management. According to the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, the Kazakh agriculture ministry had previously announced plans to double beef and lamb production within 10 years under a new Livestock Program.

Kazakhstan appears to have already made progress in increasing agricultural output in line with the new modernization plan. For the first six months of 2018, cattle and poultry slaughterings were each up 5 percent on a liveweight basis, milk volume by 3 percent, and egg production by 14.3 percent, reported KazInform this month.

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