Azerbaijan to enter world markets with quality products
President Ilham Aliyev visited the southern regions of Azerbaijan last weekend to hold a conference with a particular focus on boosting production of tea, rice, and citrus fruits.
President Aliyev toured Jalilabad and Lankaran, which are historically considered the home of citrus fruits and tea. Here, the head of state attended opening of several highways, plantations and facilities.
The southern trip addressed issues of reducing dependence on imports, meeting domestic demand through domestic production and expanding export opportunities. President Aliyev emphasized that the attention paid to agriculture in all regions, and the policies pursued by the state, have already yielded excellent results.
Chairing a republican conference on the development of tea, rice and citrus fruits production in Lankaran, President Aliyev noted that the development of agriculture is a priority for the country.
“All areas of agriculture are of crucial importance to us," the President said in his opening speech. "Work that we have done and conferences that we have held recently, and my visits to regions once again show that we are on the right track.”
“We will increase self-sufficiency in a short period of time. With its quality products Azerbaijan will get greater access to world markets. This will ensure diversification of our economy. Dependence on imports will be reduced to minimum, new jobs, new production areas will be created, which will be beneficial for all Azerbaijani citizens and our state.”
The head of state said that the government allocated low interest loans worth more than 2 billion manats ($1.17 billion) for entrepreneurs over the last years, of course, entrepreneurs also invested their funds. He noted that loans were mainly allocated to regions, agriculture and processing industry.
“As a result of this initiative, nearly 4 billion manats ($2.35 billion) or perhaps even more funds were allocated to the real sector of the country's economy,” said the President. “Although the price of oil is still very low today, we have increased our currency reserves by $3.6 billion in seven months.”
Speaking about social infrastructure, President Aliyev said that an Azerbaijani citizen is in the center of all work and policy.
“A citizen of Azerbaijan should live well and have an opportunity to live well. That's why social issues, especially education, health issues have always been a priority for us,” he said.
The head of state noted that more than 3,000 schools and more than 600 medical centers were built in recent years.
“At the same time, the conditions created in our regions also prevent migration to large cities. Now people return from cities to villages. Because very good opportunities for the development of agriculture were created,” the President added.
Speaking at the meeting, Head of the Lankaran Region Executive Power Taleh Garashov informed that for production of rice in the region a new plant was built with an annual processing capacity of 7,000 tons and a rice drying capacity of 10,000 tons.
Garashov said that due to the fact that the rice produced in Lankaran is more qualitative, it has many buyers and there are enough markets for sale. In the future, after ensuring domestic demand, the remaining surplus products are to be supplied to foreign markets.
Head of Masalli Region Executive Power Rafil Huseynov, in turn, said that as a result of government measures the output of crop production in the region increased by 31.2 percent compared to last year.
The products were mainly export-directed. For seven months of this year, vegetables, early potatoes, garlic and strawberries worth about 29 million manat ($17 million) were exported to the countries of near and far abroad under the Azerbaijani brand.
In his closing speech, President Aliyev said that the country should accelerate the process of the restoration, and the revival of traditional industries in the coming years.
Talking about the development of traditional industries such as tea and rice growing, as well as citrus fruits, the head of state said that in recent years, important steps have been taken in this direction and promised that after this conference the development of these three important industries will enjoy new impetus.
“The restoration of traditional industries, which is the topic of today's discussions, has already led to a great revival. This policy is approved by farmers. Already hundreds and thousands of new jobs are being created,” he said.
Emphasizing the high quality of agricultural products produced in Azerbaijan are of very high quality, natural, and organic, the President said that there is a great interest in national products in foreign markets.
Reminding that tea-growing in Azerbaijan has very great traditions President Aliyev recalled the first tea factory in Lankaran was established in the 1930s.
“One of the main tasks is to lay new tea plantations. The state should provide its support and local executive bodies should support farmers,” he said.
The President cited figures of imported tea, noting that in 2016, some 12,600 tons of tea were imported into the country, to which Azerbaijan spent $45 million.
At the same time, 1,100 tons of tea was exported in 2016, which brought $6.1 million to the country.
“We export tea. But we mainly export packaged tea on the basis of imported raw materials or mixed tea. And we must process and export tea grown in Azerbaijan. Then we will not lose so much currency,” he explained.
Tea plantations in the country are 1,016 hectares, including 568 hectares in Lankaran, 345 hectares in Astara, 60 hectares in Zagatala and 43 hectares in Masalli regions.
President Aliyev further mentioned that in contrast to tea growing, rice cultivation has been developing rapidly in recent years.
If rice was planted on 1,000 hectares in 1991, this area reached 2,500 hectares in 2016, where 5,600 tons of rice was harvested. In the same year, the crop area doubled to 5,000 hectares.
Last year Azerbaijan imported 48,000 tons of rice worth $37 million.
Overall, some 12 regions of the country are engaged in production of rice growing in the country.
As the upcoming measures, President Aliyev ordered to grant loans on preferential terms and create new modern enterprises for rice processing.
As for citrus, the head of state said that this industry is also given very great attention.
The citrus plants have been extended from 1,700 hectares in 2000 to 2,500 hectares at present. Last year lemons were planted on 470 hectares, while oranges on 255 hectares, and mandarins 1,700 hectares.
In 2016, a total of 27,000 tons of citrus fruits worth $17 million were imported into the country, including 9,000 tons were lemons, 4,600 tons were mandarins, 12,000 tons were oranges, and 2,000 tons were kiwi.
The President said that entrepreneurs should pay attention to these figures so that at the initial stage, it is necessary to grow this amount of citrus in Azerbaijan to eliminate the dependence on imports.
“In order to eliminate the dependence on imports, 27,000 tons of citrus fruits should be produced in Azerbaijan. We harvested 19,000 tons in 2010, and 46,000 tons of citrus in 2016. The growth is very large - more than twice in six years. This is a good dynamic, but so far it cannot fully satisfy us,” the President said.
The head of state noted in Lankaran the main issue is to create a large export potential. “These instructions must be carried out. Then we will achieve this goal. In parallel, we must look for export markets for these products,” he said.
During the visit to Jalilabad, President Aliyev attended the opening of the 22.2km-long Lankaran-Masalli stretch of the Alat-Astara-Iran state border highway, the 32.2km-long Masalli-Jalilabad section of the AlatAstara-Iran state border highway as well as Jalilabad-Astanli-Jangan-Soltankand highway.
Here, the President also attended the launch of water supply and sewage systems, and viewed conditions at the newly-reconstructed administrative and technological building of Jalilabad Telecommunications Network.
The inauguration of Avangard LLC's cereals and pulses cleaning and packing complex was also a part of the president's visit to Jalilabad.
Then, the head of state also viewed Gunashli-Agro LLC`s Agropark, which features 563-hectare barley, 530hectare sugar beet, 219-hectare wheat, 160-hectare cotton, 68-hectare maize and 60-hectare clover plantations.
As part of the visit to Lankaran the President viewed local farmer Araz Yagubov's tea plantation “Yashil Chay”, and visited Astara Chay plantations with total area of 289 hectares.
President Aliyev also viewed Janub Agro LLC's rice paddies and inaugurated a rice plant, occupying a total area of 225 hectares. The rice paddies occupy an area of 35 hectares, which will be expanded by 27.5 hectares in the future.
Then, the head of state opened Khazar Palace hotel complex, located in a two-hectare area.
The last stop in the presidential trip was Gilan Orchards LLC's citrus gardens, occupying a total area of 100 hectares. Some 45,000 hallabong trees brought from the Republic of Korea were planted in the plantations.