Tajikistan hopes to boost agriculture output

DUSHANBE – Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon is ordering government officials to further develop the economy, with a particular focus on agriculture.

Rakhmon requested they pay close attention to the difficulties of spring planting.

A variety of issues have farmers like Kulyab resident Atandil Firdovsiyev worried as spring planting approaches.

“I do not have enough fuel or lubricants for the farm equipment,” he said. “I’m afraid I may wait too long to plant.” Delays of freight trains on the Uzbek border last year disrupted fuel deliveries.

“What’s more, there wasn’t enough precipitation this year; the soil is completely dry,” Firdovsiyev said. But heartened by rainfall and snow in early February, scientists at the Agriculture Ministry are trying to put farmers’ minds at ease.

A January analysis showed that seeds underground had not been hurt by the winter freeze, Kutfullo Ziyodulloyev, chief of the Agriculture Ministry’s Horticulture Office, said.

tjagricultureTajik women pull weeds in a ploughed field in Yavanskii District, Khatlon Oblast, in May. Tajikistan is preparing for spring planting. [Nazim Kalandarov]

And “fuel is being stocked and farm equipment is being readied so that planting cotton and other crops will be on time,” Deputy Minister of Agriculture Sidzhovuddin Isroilov said.

Hasan Mahayev of the Agriculture Ministry’s Planning Department said farms that are short on supplies will receive government aid.

“Spring planting is very important for agriculture in Tajikistan,” he said. “Moreover, this employs most of the residents in the regions and agriculture accounts for 25% of the GDP. So we certainly want to resolve this problem.”

Some 60% of the population is involved in agriculture, according to official statistics.

Thanks to foreign donors, some farmers will receive agricultural equipment. Through the 2010-2014 State Programme for the Development of Horticulture, the government will distribute seedlings to farmers and gardeners, Mahayev said.

Cotton bounces back

Sakhovat Tursunzoda, a farmer from Kanibadam District, said even though he sowed almost no cotton last year, he is considering dedicating almost half his land to this year’s crop.

“Last year, cotton was not profitable to plant since I would have had to sell it for a very low price,” he said. “I planted vegetables in order to make more profit. But this year they say that cotton might go for a bit more, so I am going to sow about 50% of my plot.”

Tursunzoda’s plans represent a general trend nationwide since the price of cotton on the world market dipped last year only to rise again this year, Mahayev said. “In the north, the area for cotton cultivation will increase by 11,000ha to 65,000ha this year. Farmers and farm workers are again interested in growing cotton.”

A number of innovations await Tajikistan this planting season. China, Turkey and India will introduce new crop-growing technologies into the country, Isroilov said. “For example, China plans to begin producing cotton in Tajikistan, using new technologies and introducing the drip-irrigation system,” he said. “The plan is for drip irrigation to cover an area of 50ha. The Chinese also intend to grow rice using new technology on an area of 1,000ha in the south.”

Rakhmon has distributed 20,000ha of land to 200,000 needy families. Usniyo Habibova and her family are on a waiting list for one of these plots. “If we get such a plot, we will be able to start our own small farm,” she said.