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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.

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May 19, 2011 2:48 by



Kazakhstan expects grain exports next season to match or exceed the 6 million tonnes forecast for the current marketing year, with Iran and Arab states emerging as growing markets, the country’s agriculture minister said.

Soil conditions point to an improvement on last year’s drought-ravaged crop in the vast Central Asian state, which is aiming to diversify its farm sector by attracting investors in a wide range of food projects, Asylzhan Mamytbekov told Reuters.

“Kazakhstan is not only grain and meat. There is a wide spectrum of projects for investors,” Mamytbekov said in his first interview since being appointed minister last month.

Kazakhstan, the world’s seventh-largest wheat exporter last season, plays a key role in regional food security. It consumes around 2.5 million tonnes of grain annually while producing, on average, upward of 15 million tonnes a year.

Black Sea wheat shipments have fallen dramatically in the current marketing year after a summer drought ravaged crops across the former Soviet Union, prompting a rush from consumers in North Africa and elsewhere to secure alternative supplies.

Russia’s grain export ban has allowed Kazakhstan to grab a share of regional markets this year, Mamytbekov said, while some central Russian regions had taken the highly unusual step of buying feed grain from Kazakhstan.

“Those countries that traditionally buy from Russia — mainly countries in the Caucasus region, such as Armenia, Georgia, parts of Turkey and Azerbaijan — have found Kazakhstan to be their next-closest market,” he said.

The minister said Kazakhstan had exported 5.4 million tonnes of grain so far in the marketing year from July 1, 2010, versus 8.4 million tonnes in the whole of the preceding season He said he expected 2010/2011 exports to reach 6 million tonnes.

Asked about next season’s exports, he said: “I expect no less than this year because, despite the fact that 2010 was a dry year, we managed to export such volumes.

“Perhaps, if we have a big harvest, volumes will grow.”

LOGISTICS

Kazakhstan, which like Russia suffered from drought last year, harvested only 12.2 million tonnes of grain in 2010 — a sharp fall from the record crop of 20.8 million tonnes in 2009.

The country’s latest forecast for the 2011 crop is between 15 million and 16 million tonnes. Mamytbekov declined to give a new forecast, saying much would still depend on the weather.

“All of the necessary conditions are satisfactory: soil moisture, technology, seeding. Everything points to the fact that sowing is going to plan, but the weather will determine whether we have a good crop or something similar to last year.”

Mamytbekov said Kazakhstan would focus mainly on its traditional markets of Central Asia, Iran and Afghanistan, as the vast distances to Black Sea and Baltic Sea ports render its grain uncompetitive when Russia and Ukraine are in play.

“Our exports do not necessarily depend on our production, because the Kazakh market is limited by logisitical problems. If Russia and Ukraine have a good harvest, our grain becomes uncompetitive on the Black and Baltic Sea markets,” he said. “Our grain will be orientated toward those countries to which we have provided stable supplies over the last 10 years.”



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