As of July 21, about one-fifth of the summer harvest in Kyryzstan had been completed, the local news agency 24.kg [http://www.eng.24.kg/community/171531-news24.html] reported. On a surface of 117,800 hectare, a total of 211,800 tonne had been harvested, the report read, referring to the Minister of Agriculture and Land Reclamation Taalaibek Aidaraliyev. This means that in the order of 23 per cent of the expected harvest of 512,200 tonne has been collected. This is in the order of one-third of the expected harvest of 1.55 million tonne of cereals as posted by the US Department of Agriculture for this year.

 

photograph © 2014 Charles van der Leeuw

photograph © 2014 Charles van der Leeuw

As it appears, Kyrgyzstan’s harvest speed this year is more or less at pace with those of its imminent partners in the Eurasian Economic Union. “As of July 24, Russia harvested grain crops throughout the areas of 10.7 million hectare, or 22.9% of the planned harvested areas (in 2013 – 11.7 mln ha), the Kiev-based specialised agency APK-Inform [http://www.apk-inform.com/en/news/1033406#.U9NAzkoo7IU] reported. The produced volumes reached 37.2 mln tonnes of grains in bunker weight (in 2013 – 33.3 mln tonne), with the yield of 3.48 t/ha (in 2013 – 2.84 t/ha), declared the Ministry of Agriculture of the Russian Federation. Farmers harvested winter and spring wheat throughout 8.6 mln ha, or 33.9% of the harvested areas (in 2013 – 9.1 mln ha). The produced volumes totaled 31.4 mln tonne (in 2013 – 27.6 mln tonne) with the average yield of 3.66 t/ha (in 2013 – 3.05 t/ha). Russia harvested winter and spring barley throughout 991,000 ha, or 10.7% of the planned areas (in 2013 – 1.4 mln ha). The produced volumes reached 3.1 mln tonne (in 2013 – 3.2 mln tonne) with the average yield of 3.15 t/ha (in 2013 – 2.34 t/ha). In addition, agrarians harvested winter rapeseed throughout 210 thsd ha, or 16.9% of the harvested areas (in 2013 – 179,600 ha). The production totaled 342.3 thsd tonnes (in 2013 – 304,600 tonne) with a yield of 1.63 t/ha (in 2013 – 1.7 t/ha).”

 

Similar figures come from other EEU member states. “According to operative data as of July 25, Belarus harvested grains and leguminous crops throughout the areas of 549,000 hectare, or 22.6% of the plan,” APK [http://www.apk-inform.com/en/news/1033443#.U9NCG0oo7IU] reported. The average yield totaled 3.9 t/ha, the harvested volumes – 2.141 mln tonne of grains, declared the Ministry of Agriculture of the Republic of Belarus. Farmers harvested winter rapeseed throughout 335,400 ha (94.1%). The harvested volumes totaled 753,100 tonne, with the average yield of 2.25 t/ha.” As of July 26 this year, Kazakhstan had already produced 436,200 tonne of grain, with the average yield of 1.14 tonne per hectare.  According to agriculture minister Asylzhan Mamytbekov as quoted by the agency, harvest expectations for this year are in the order of 15 to 17 million tonne of all kinds of cereals – mainly wheat – meaning flat year-on-year. Outside the EEU, farmers Tajikistan already harvested 545,000 tonne of grain, with an average yield of 3.09 t/ha, APK informed [http://www.apk-inform.com/en/news/1033399#.U9NDmEoo7IU] referring to the Ministry of Agriculture on July 24. “The Ministry noted that in 2014 the produced grain volumes are expected to reach the last year results< the report read. “The overall harvested areas total over 291,000 ha. As of the reporting date, agrarians realized re-planting of grains throughout 57,100 ha (the planned areas – 74,700 ha). In 2013 Tajikistan harvested 1.2 mln tonne of grain.”

 

Back in Kyrgyzstan, forecasts for this year’s harvest of the three core cereals wheat, barley and maize have been put at 1.55 million tonne, according to estimates published by the US Department of Agriculture, which also gives historic, though not very detailed, figures of histortic output fluctuations (see table below). Kyrgyzstan has a high level of crop diversification in comparison to neighbouring Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, but this goes at the expense of self-sufficient wheat supplies. While in terms of the two other cereals Kyrgyzstan has a surplus in production, it has to buy several hundreds of thousands tonne of wheat, both for fodder and for human consumption, from Kazakhstan and the Russian Federation each year to keep the stomachs of man and best filled through the winter.

 

For the near future, Kyrgyzstan hopes to reach harvest levels it used to witness in better times once more. This does not only refer to Soviet times, but in contrast to many other Soviet republics which saw sharp declines in agricultural productivity in the immediate wake of the break-up of the USSR and the earliest years of their somewhat less than voluntary independence, Kyrgyzstan witnessed a revival in agriculture. USDA figures show that while in 1991 the wheat harvest stood at a poor-looking 434,000 tonne, in 1997 it reached an all-time peak of 1,274 million tonne and as late as 2009 (see table) it still exceeded a million tonne.

Concerning other cereals, patterns vary enormously. While Kyrgyzstan’s output of barley in the last few years has recovered from all-time lows at the end of the previous decade, it still amounts to hardly more than half of its 1992 peak of 582,000 tonne. Maize production offers an even better picture, having stabilised in the last couple of years at 450,000 tonne, this also means a firm recovery from the all-time low in 1995 of no more than 116,000 tonne. Likewise, output of rice has been steadily rising from 10,000 tonne shortly after independence to 14,000 tonne (milled) in recent years. Cotton, by contrast, also shows stable output since independence, though still below its all-time peak of 248,000 bales in 2004. The most problematic sector, apart from wheat, remains sugar, production of which (in refined form) shot up to 109,000 tonne in 1993, followed by a sharp drop and in turn by a temporary recovery to 85,000 tonne, only to drop again to the poor-looking level of 15,000 tonne per annum these days, with sugar refineries in the country working way below capacity.

 

Among the elements which have contributed to the declines in production into the news millennium are the low living standards among farmers. In order to limit their exposure to low income because of low sales prices, the government provides financial support to keep business going. “Kyrgyz farmers received 4.4 billion som in loans so far this year, 24.kg reported [].in mid-July. “In the framework of “Financing Agriculture-2” to project farmers, processors and agricultural seed cooperatives [the state] issued 13,740 concessional loans. Most part of loans received farmers in Jalal-Abad region. They issued 2,917 loans at 848,410 som. Despite the fact that entrepreneurs of Chui oblast took only 2,284 loans, their sum exceeded 1,125.5 billion som. The lowest demand loans are in Naryn and Batken. There farmers received 397.6 million and 322.6 million som respectively.” Observers tend to fear, though, that the debt burden could be fatal in the end to many a farmer, since the capital value of rural property is too low to back up eventual defaults in repayment.

 

Output of core crops in Kyrgyzstan 2009-2014 according to USDA

yearwheatbarleymaizerice*)sugar**)cotton
20091057000290000487000130002000078000
2010813000232000441000140001500096000
20118000002340004460001300015000125000
20125600002200004500001400020000100000
2013875000325000450000140001500090000
2014775000325000450000n.a.1500090000

*) milled
**) centrifugal
source: US Department of Agriculture