HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY

Kazakhstan 2015 | AGRICULTURE & FOOD | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Asylzhan Mamytbekov, Minister of Agriculture of the Republic of Kazakhstan, on ensuring optimal utilization of agricultural land, enabling farmers to succeed and grow, and the sectors investment climate.

Asylzhan Mamytbekov
BIOGRAPHY
Asylzhan Mamytbekov studied at the Kazakh State University and the Kazakh State Academy of Management. He began his career in 1998 as the Deputy chairman of the Kostanay regional committee on land resources management and spent the next decade holding numnerous government leadership positions. Among these, he served as the Deputy Mayor of Astana city and the Deputy Head of the Prime Minister’s Office of Kazakhstan. In April 2011 he was appointed as the Minister of Agriculture.

According to World Bank statistics, 77% of all the land in Kazakhstan is suitable for agricultural activities. What strategy does the Ministry implement to optimize land usage and increase agricultural potential?

At the moment, Kazakhstan is not using much of its land, and this undercapitalization prevents us from attracting more investment into the agricultural industry. In order to solve this problem, the Ministry of Agriculture has taken under their control the Republican Center of Agrochemical Service. The center is responsible for inspection of soils and produces evaluations of soil condition, which in the long run will serve as validation to confiscate the land from inefficient landowners that allow the quality of soil to drop. Besides this, we have created a series of measures to produce written records of each field's history, and to establish certain rules for rational use of the land. All these measures will stimulate the landowners to use their land to its full capacity. At the moment, Kazakhstan is running the program Agrobusiness 2020 to stimulate the development of agrarian and industrial businesses. The program has been under way since 2013, and it contains a slew of government supports for the agroindustrial industry. Along with the current measures, the program offers new means of government support, such as financial improvement, insurance, and advance protection before financial institutions, investment subsidies, funding of second-tier banks, which will facilitate the access of agroindustrial establishments to funding. In order to increase the paying capacity, reduce the loan-debt burden, and minimize the risk of bankruptcy for owner-operated farms and agricultural establishments, we are implementing the mechanism of financial improvement by means of restructuring, refinancing, and financing of establishments for debt service payments. For the purpose of financial recovery of agroindustrial establishments the KazAgro holding has used eurobonds amounting to $2 billion. As a result of the financial recovery from 2013 until now, 292 applications from agroindustrial establishments have been approved, totalling KZT312.9 billion. Considering that the budget for the program for financial recovery was limited to KZT300 billion, the plan for financial recovery has been completed successfully. Overall, to implement this program for the next eight years, the government will provide KZT3.1 trillion or almost $17 billion, which will attract no less than KZT10 trillion, or $66.6 billion in private investments to the industry throughout the period of implementation.

How would you evaluate the attractiveness of the agrarian sector for international investors?

At the moment attracting new investments, including to the agrarian sector, is one of the priorities of the government. We are developing and adopting new measures of government support that would help us improve the investment climate. The agrarian sector of Kazakhstan is attractive to investors because of the annual growth of the gross output of agriculture, and current increases in investments into the base capital of agriculture industry. Besides this, significant resources and perspectives of the country for the development of agricultural sector are increasing the interest of potential investors in the agrarian sector. Our vast territory allows us to broaden the cultivation areas of different crops and develop free-range animal husbandry. Another potential for development lies in new methods and technologies for handling business in the agricultural industry. Today, Kazakhstan is one of the main producers and suppliers of crops and grain production to the world market. At the same time, the country intends to fully cover their internal demand for agricultural produce, in order to ensure the domestic food security. We are conducting work on export-oriented production of goods, specifically meat: beef, mutton, and poultry.