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The land

Most of the country is mountainous, with 70% of it over 2000 m above sea level, and reaching 7 439 m in Jengish Chokusu; the rest is occupied by valleys and basins, with the lowest point at 132 m above sea level. According to Koeppen’s classification, the climate is cold type, with limited areas of dry type climate; it is temperate in the northern foothill zone.

Arable land and permanent crops cover 1.4 million ha; permanent pastures cover 9.2 million ha; and forests are on 700 000 ha. The main crops are wheat, barley, maize, potatoes, cotton, oilseeds, sugar beet, vegetables, fruit and tobacco. The country has the world’s largest natural-growth walnut forest.

Other indicators

Average daily availability of calories per caput in 1995-97 was 2 294. Food imports include grains (estimated at 206 000 tonnes for 1999/2000, of which 107 000 tonnes as food aid pledges). Kyrgyzstan is the major exporter of the region for fresh tomatoes, and some vegetables; and second-largest exporter of the region for grapes and tobacco; other exports include apples, onions, cotton, meat, hides and wool. The labour force participation ratio of women to men was 0.9 in 1998.

Agricultural sector

Land tenure

Presidential decrees of 1991 set in action privatization of land and of organizations previously operated by the State. It involved the allocation of land on a lease that is transferable, inheritable and potentially available for use as collateral. The extent of implementation of land privatization was 30% in 1999, some of which was collectively managed.

Rural infrastructure

Collectively managed land still represented 90% of total land in 1999. The majority of farm machinery is held by centralized pools controlled by collective farm management. The domestic banking system is facing great difficulties and loans for agriculture are minimal. Scarcity of funding from central sources has resulted in the large farms, particularly the seed farms, becoming “privatized by default.” The Government has encouraged the development of Credit Unions. In 1999, there was no independent national farmers’ organization.

Agricultural Inputs

There is an overall shortage of quality seed. Over the past five years, limited amounts of fertilizers have been used in most areas of the country. The farm machinery pool is old and requires replacement. Many agricultural areas require improved drainage in order to increase production yields.

Donor support and cooperation

Support has been received from World Bank, UNDP, FAO, ADB, Japanese Fund, TACIS, CARANA, Swiss Funds, NGOs, etc. South-south cooperation has been recommended with Turkey. There have already been projects targeted at the seed sector, such as for the purchase of seed suitable for multiplication (1996), or studies aiming at the development of a national seed business.

Seed sector

International organizations and bilateral programmes have already recommended a wide range of measures, because the entire seed sector needs to be re-established on better grounds. Their recommendations have covered legislative and institutional changes, breeding activity, the production and use of improved seed varieties, effective variety testing, control and certification, as well as enhanced processing, marketing and supply of seeds. FAO implemented a Technical Cooperation Programme project (TCP/KYR/6611) on Seed Legislation and Plant Variety Protection.

Plant breeding

Two existing units have been identified by a recent project for crop breeding in the republic: the Institute of Land Culture (PBI - with 17 technicians) for wheat, barley, maize and vegetable breeding, and the Fodder Breeding Institute (FBI - with 15 technicians) for pasture and fodder crops. Both units need to acquire a pragmatic and commercial approach in order to produce good results. They need changes to make them more autonomous, a management capable of developing realistic business plans, new equipment, training programmes, and adequate financial support.

Variety evaluation

The Variety Testing Institute fulfils one of the regulatory functions of the Ministry of Agriculture and Water. It is financed exclusively from parallel farming activities, but the resources obtained barely cover day-to-day operations. In 1999 there were 15 stations, each with land (about 45 ha) for official testing. Buildings are in poor condition and equipment obsolete. Lack of spare parts and energy aggravate the problem. The stations have an excess of untrained staff and many trials are influenced by human factors. Some of the machines used in the field are oversized for the small trial plots. The introduction of modern equipment would require new expertise and re-training.

Seed production

Kyrgyzstan was historically a major seed producer within the former Soviet Union. The low relative humidity, and therefore low disease pressure, allowed the production of high quality seed. Seed production was highly structured. The breeding station supplied Breeders seed to one of the three farms that produced Super Elite seed. Multiplication was carried out on 84 farms, which produced Elite seed and from that Commercial Seed R1 (first generation). The process required too much multiplication, sometimes 11 generations, before reaching the market, with a considerable loss of quality by the time it reached the farmer. Lacking funds, the 84 farms have been “privatized by default.” A major effort is required to modernize them and make them economically viable.

Seed control and certification

Staff of the seed production group of the Ministry of Agriculture and Water carry out the inspection of the Elite and Super Elite production in the field. Commercial production is inspected by the staff of the 43 Seed Inspection Laboratories reporting to district (rajon) authorities. Again, there are many problems requiring solution in this area, such as the establishment of a new Seed Certification Branch in the Ministry of Agriculture and Water to coordinate the methodology and the programmes of - preferably - fewer but better-equipped Seed Inspection Laboratories.

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