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FAO report offers hope for improved food value chains in Azerbaijan

An employee at a honey production farm conducts morning inspection of beehives.

The Soviet Union collapsed nearly 30 years ago, but its effects linger in the fragmented farm structures and market channels that plague food value chains throughout Europe and Central Asia.

A series of FAO publications is dedicated to improving this issue by revealing a path forward to a system that is both sustainable and socially inclusive. It does that by taking stock of the region’s current practices, country by country, and nudging them towards the Sustainable Food Value Chain (SFVC) approach, which can offer pathways to relieving millions of poor households from poverty.

The writers of the publication on Azerbaijan, FAO economists John O’Connell and Zoltan Hradszky, used a “value chain gap analysis” method to assess the business-enabling environment surrounding the development of agrifood value chains in that country and identified the value chain gaps in the crop and livestock sectors.

Using the organic honey value chain as a case study, the authors investigated the crop and livestock sectors in Azerbaijan, looking at such aspects as regulatory frameworks, state support measures and donor-funded activities.

In Azerbaijan, 55 percent of the territory is used for agricultural purposes, and with about 40 percent of the population working in agriculture, the sector is the country’s largest employer.

The publication shows that Azerbaijan’s rich and diverse agro-ecological zones open windows to a wide range of potential agricultural activities in the development of value chains.

“Azerbaijan has advantages in producing agricultural commodities and value-added agrifood products,” said Fang Cheng, an FAO economist. “Putting focus on the farming level and linking with post-agricultural sections and improved market access, the SFVC approach would enable Azerbaijan to bring its economic growth, job creation and household incomes to a new level.”

This analysis of Azerbaijan will help inform plans throughout the region, he said.

“This publication is an important piece of a bigger puzzle, as value chain analyses are already available for Kyrgyzstan, Republic of Moldova, and Ukraine,” Cheng said. “This enables a bigger and longer-term regional strategy to fight against poverty.”

Azerbaijan’s liquid gold: natural, mountain flora honey

The publication’s authors made several trips to Azerbaijan, visiting the regions of Ganja, Sheki, and Gakh to learn about the country’s honey value chain.

They discovered that the excellent-quality honey of Azerbaijan has high value on the market, but – despite the Government of Azerbaijan’s great efforts to support beekeeping there – much still needs to be done to achieve further growth in the sector.

“In this sector, the biggest gaps to be bridged are the lack of cooperation among farmers, the low capacities of the Beekeepers’ Association, and the marketing constraints” Cheng said.

Azerbaijan’s legal environment is well-set-up to develop food value chains, as it complies with international standards and is supportive of the development of the agricultural sector. The study recommends emphasis on law enforcement capacities and inspections to improve food safety and quality along value chains. Compliance with food safety standards and improved post-harvest handling may also help to reduce the occurrence of food losses, the study reported, while enabling farmers to trade their products on international markets.

Aimed at providing valuable information for the government, the private sector and non-governmental organizations, the freely available English-language publication discusses the country’s business environment, access to finance, production support and post-farm value chain development. The study’s ultimate goal is to foster the growth of new perspectives and the development of better-targeted value chains and improve the competiveness of agrifood products in the region.

24 August 2018, Baku, Azerbaijan

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