Trial by Soil

Ministry of agriculture of RK under administration of Umirzak Shukeev is demonstrating an abnormal openness in regards to business and population. This is proved not only by frequent visits of the head of the institution and his assistants into the regions, but also by the summary meeting with citizens, announced for June 15th 2018, in which the plan is to discuss major directions for development of agriculture of the country.

The reasons for such openness of Mr. Shukeev and his team lie on the surface: agriculture in Kazakhstan — is one of the hardest and problematic sectors of the economy, nobody could change using funding on its own, during either planned economy or now. Thus, in order for miracle to happen and for agricultural sector to become competitive, highly-productive and consistently profitable, we need conscious mass support and participation of both domestic business and a considerable part of rural population.

However, this is unlikely in the current conditions of Kazakhstan. Due to this, despite Shukeev’s blank check from the president and the ability to push his initiatives through the government apparatus the ability of that government apparatus to redistribute 76 million hectares of pastures from their current owners (lease holders) to those farms that will participate in the new program, seem doubtful.

We remind that the issue of land is one of the most critical, difficult, non-transparent, divisive and sensitive issues in Kazakhstan. Moreover, nobody in the country, including the president himself, was able to cope with the resistance of those, who privatized the land or received control over it using rental agreements. One thing that comes to mind is the time when the head of the state decided to sort out the mess with the land use in Almaty and its suburbs, especially in environmentally-protected zones, and the whole ordeal ended with a few scandals with proprietors and demolishing of a couple of fences, after which the activity of government structures ended.

This is why we are convinced: despite the statements of officials from the ministry, that unsustainably-used land plots will be taken, thankfully corresponding amendments to the legislation of the republic were already passed, and that all of the data on land was gathered into a database and is accessible in electronic format, there are no considerable successes in this endeavor.

This means that  the National strategy for development of animal husbandry for 2018-2027, developed by the ministry of agriculture of RK (still in the development phase), will be fulfilled only partially and only where the interests of land owners, the state, investors and farmers coincide. In all other cases, the process of expropriation (redistribution) of agricultural lands, including pastures, has a risk of turning into a serious headache for authorities,

because the talk is not only about large sums of money but also about the influence in the region. It is unlikely, that a few thousand people, representatives of Kazakhstani elite, including regional ones, will agree to part with the land easily.

Moreover, even if Kazakhstan creates 80 industrial feeding stations and 7 meat-processing complexes, this won’t change much. Because there is enough of other issues in the industry. For example, it is unclear how to restore competitiveness of the grain production, which for the last couple of years has been experiencing serious pressure from Russian agro-industrial complex, how to secure stability of productivity of agricultural structures in the conditions of high-risk agriculture, how to develop processing of agricultural production in the conditions of pressure from the import side. Another headache is the large grain companies, that became de-facto bankrupt.

Minsitry of agriculture of RK is trying to do something. In particular the institution, as part of the Astana economic forum agreed on cooperation with several other large foreign investors, changed mechanisms of subsidizing of seed raising and undertook a number of other measures on improving mechanism of government support. However, this isn’t enough for the state of affairs in the industry to change for the better.

Even if mechanism of project management will be utilized for the implementation of government program of development of the agro-industrial complex for 2018-2021, which was conveyed by the Vice PM and minister of agriculture Shukeev at the 28 May hearings in Majlis of Parliament of RK, this doesn’t change much in the industry.  Simply because, the goal of growing of production of agricultural production and its derivative will be again solved using bureaucratic method.

However, there is hope that in the end, the government will realize that the only way to boost agriculture of the country and thus improve quality of life in the village, is not the administration of the industry from the government and its reformation from the top, but rather support of agricultural producers, capable of becoming leaders and leading others with them. Also, accounting for such realities of the market as the low purchasing power, issues with growing export, low density of population and its surplus in the villages, especially if the industry develops and thus, the productivity will start rising.


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