The situation and development prospects of agriculture in the Sheki-Zaqatala Economic Region

The Azerbaijan Republic consists of 10 economic regions of combined districts. Sheki-Zagatala, one of the richest economic regions of the Azerbaijan Republic, is located in the north-west on the southern slope of the Greater Caucasus mountains alongside the regions of Balakan, Zagatala, Gakh, Shaki, Oguz and Gabala. The geographical position, the climate, and the topography of the area lays the groundwork for the development of agriculture, especially livestock, fruit and crop.

If we look at the demographic indicators, we can see that a significant proportion of the economic regions’ population lives in rural environments. Thus, the total number of population of this economic region is 587.7 thousand people, or 6.3 percent of the country’s population. 27,6  percent of the region’s population lives in  urban areas and 72.4 per cent in rural areas. These figures are 52.9 and 47.1 percent, respectively, according to the country’s population.  A large part of the region’s population is in rural areas, thus the density of population of the region is 67 people per square kilometer.

Sheki-Zagatala Economic Region

  • Location:     Şimal-Qərb bölgəsi
  • Area:                       8,96 thousand km2
  • Population:         587.700 people (01.01.2013)
  • Population density:      1 km2 /67 persons (01.01.2013)
  • Districts:         Balakan, Zaqatala, Gakh, Sheki, Oguz, Gabala

Problems still remain unresolved in the agricultural sector of the region despite favorable environment and state support in different sectors. The population engaged in the agricultural sector cannot afford family expenses due to the 1996 agrarian reforms that transferred state land fund into regional and private ownership. Land was given to state, municipal, and private property. In private property land plots were given to each family for an average of 1.2-2 ha.

The vast majority of family farmers primarily engage in the cultivation of cereal crops every year in order to meet the needs of their families. Because of the lack of arable areas they can not follow cropping rotationLack of income does not allow them to apply new agricultural innovation and techniques. Furthermore, the vast majority of people working in the agricultural sector lack specific scientific knowledge and professional skills for doing only farm work on collective farms. As a result, there is minimal oversight and control over how the land is farmed. All of these problems ultimately lead tothe following issues:

  • The intensification of the processes such as erosion, salinization, land degradation and pollution of the arable layer that cause the reduction of soil fertility in the conditions of land use.
  • Lack of opportunities to use mineral fertilizer preparations due to the low income of the farmers.
  • The reduction of production of food products in the condition of small and retail land use
  • The migration of able-bodied people and youth to big cities and abroad due to increasing of unemployment in rural areas.
  • The increasing  poverty rate and lower income amongst the rural  population.
  • Lack of competitiveness of local agricultural products compared with imported products in the domestic market.
  • Failure to comply with international and national standards in the production process;

At the same time it should be noted that, the lack of knowledge and skills of region’s farmers is one of the factors that has negative effect on their quantitative and qualitative product production. It can be seen clearly in the following table.

Productivity of potential crops produced in the economic region of Shaki-Zagatala and its comparison with high product 

Product name | Volume | cent/ha* | Productivity in the world cent/ha** |Comprasion difference: times less

  • Grain,32,76,2.3
  • Walnut,23,60,2.6
  • Hazelnut,12,30,2.5
  • Chestnut,15,54,3.6
  • Tobacco, 27.9,38,1.3
  • Potato,93,553,5.9
  • Cucumber,122,996,8.1
  • Tomato, 129,494,3.8
  • Apple, 101,903,8.9
  • Carrot,76,107,1.4

*Data from the State Statistical Committee of the Azerbaijan Republic has been  used

**It has been based on information of Food and agriculture organization of United Nations.

As seen from the table the volume of goods produced in the region is less than 5.9 or even 8.9 times compared with the developed countries of the world. And this, of course,  affects the farmers’ income and regional development. As a result, most of the farmers prefer hired work with low wages and are giving up land cultivation.

The implementation of the following activities are offered for the solution of the problem and the development of the region in the agricultural sector:

  • The creation of Farm Advisory Centers(FMM) in local communities in order to transform the innovations and best practices in agricultural sector :
  • Provision of support to the creation of cooperatives and farmer associations in order to Educate farmers much faster and reduce production
  • Improving knowledge and skills of local experts (agronom, veterinarians, technologists, etc.)  in order to ensure sustainable development:
  • Establishment and strengthening of relations of manufactures, suppliers, exporters, wholesale sellers in order to support the marketing of the produced agricultural products.
  • Organization of production and sale in order to achieve sustainable product sales:
  • Strenghthening of state support to the development of agricultural sector and organization of control mechanism:
  • Simplification of giving credits to farmers with long-term and low interest by state and local financial organizations and state:
  • To produce products in accordance with international standards and certification in order to add value and extraction of the productin to the market under the name ‘ regional brand.’

Elmaddin Namazov

Sadiq Latifov