The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced on Tuesday that it plans to implement three new projects in Azerbaijan’s agriculture sector as part of the mutual FAO-Azerbaijan cooperation program that was signed in 2016.
Melek Cakmak, the head of the FAO’s Partnership and Liaison Office, said the first project is aimed at providing assistance to developing the sheep breeding sector and creating a value chain in the field. The second project will bring FAO expertise in artificial insemination and improving the feed base for developing the livestock sector through expanding field-related knowledge. And a third project is designed to increase potato seed production.
Agriculture accounted for 5.6 percent of Azerbaijan’s $41 billion GDP in 2017, according to data compiled by the State Statistics Committee. The economic value added by agriculture, as well as the forestry and fishing industries, to the non-oil sector of the Caspian country’s economy increased by 4.2 percent, compared to a year earlier.
Agriculture is on the rise in a country where the export is dominated by hydrocarbon revenues.
President Ilham Aliyev signed the “Strategic Roadmap on Production and Processing of Agricultural Products in Azerbaijan” in 2016, a four-year plan meant to incentivize investment in the sector and provide a roadmap for the expansion of potential products processed from what is grown, harvested and farmed. Some estimations forecast that, if implemented according to plan, the roadmap could rake in $265 million in real GDP terms and attract $259 million worth investments in the sector by 2020.
“We are currently elaborating several more projects. One of them is aimed at the development of the hazelnut industry,” Cakmak said according to Emerging Europe.
“Hazelnuts are one of Azerbaijan’s main non-oil exports, and we want to help the development of this sector in particular, to increase the production of traditional varieties.”
The climate of Azerbaijan, located both in the highlands and lowlands of the South Caucasus, allows growing almost all kinds of hazelnut. The northwestern Gakh, Zagatala, Balakan and Oghuz regions are home to large hazelnut gardens which are able to produce 35,000 tons of nut per annum.
A report issued by FAO in 2017 confirmed Azerbaijan as the world’s fifth largest hazelnut producer, alongside Turkey, Georgia, Italy and the USA. The country has also been identified as the third largest exporter of hazelnut kernel, and makes up for about four percent of global hazelnut production. The Azerbaijan Hazelnut Producers and Exporters Association says that around 21,000 tons of hazelnut kernels were exported to foreign markets in 2017. Fifteen thousand tons, or 71 percent of the export, have been shipped off to Europe, particularly to Italy and Germany.
Azerbaijan Hazelnut Producers and Exporters Association, which unites five domestic hazelnut exporters and 12,000 individual farmers, aims to harvest 70,000 tons of the crop by the end of this year, sending 80 percent of what’s grown to consumer markets in Europe.