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Kazakhstan seeks to boost grain, beef exports

Kazakhstan seeks to boost grain, beef exports

Iran and Arab states are expected to switch from buying exports from Russia to Kazakhstan despite droughts last year. Foreign minister declined to give estimates on growth.

May 19, 2011 2:48 by



Customs data, which follow the calendar year rather than the marketing year, show Azerbaijan was the largest buyer of Kazakh grain in 2010. It purchased 1.4 million tonnes at a cost of $242 million.

Turkey was the next-largest buyer of Kazakh grain, purchasing 747,000 tonnes worth $159 million in 2010, while Iran spent $79 million on 691,000 tonnes of grain.

A new Kazakh-Iranian joint venture terminal in the Iranian port of Amirabad, while not yet in full swing, should allow Kazakhstan to ship more wheat to Iran via the Caspian Sea, said Mamytbekov.

He said that Kazakh wheat should be a cheaper option for consumers in northern Iran, including the capital Tehran, than grain imported from other regions via ports on the Persian Gulf, which would then incur a further $30 per tonne in rail tariffs.

“When we can export more to Iran, I think we will also then have the opportunity to enter Arab countries — and there is already interest,” he said. Kazakhstan supplied grain in 2010 to Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Libya, among others.

BEEF EXPORTS

Kazakhstan also expects to increase annual beef exports to 60,000 tonnes by 2016 from practically nil today, an ambitious project that will require significant investment in cattle breeding and an overhaul of the country’s veterinary services.

Mamytbekov, who was previously head of state agricultural company Kazagro, said beef exports would be aimed mainly at the Russian, South Korean and Chinese markets, where demand is high.

“South Korea imports between 300,000 and 350,000 tonnes of beef every year. We have had interest from Korean businessmen,” he said. “In order to enter the premium markets where good meat is sold at a high price, we must provide security and quality.” Investment in food processing plants and infrastructure, as well as better access to information and trading networks, will be key to diversifying the range of crops grown in Kazakhstan. Mamytbekov said this would be one of his priorities as minister.

“There is a lot of conservatism in farming,” he said. “Kazakhstan does not have a problem with maize or soy because we can’t produce it, but because there has not been steady demand.

“How does a farmer decide how to use his land? He thinks: ‘I could grow soy or maize, but where will I sell it?’ He’ll scratch his head and eventually say: ‘OK, I’m better off sowing wheat because at least I know that I can sell it’.”

Investment in Kazakhstan’s agricultural sector grew to 88.8 billion tenge ($610 million) in 2010 from 77.5 billion tenge in 2009, Agriculture Ministry data shows.

Mamytbekov said Kazakhstan would welcome more investment in plants that would buy such crops. “It’s about changing habits,” he said. “(Farmers) need to know in advance that there will be a buyer.” (By Robin Paxton and Raushan Nurshayeva; Editing by Keiron Henderson)



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