It is a typical mountainous landlocked country, with a range of heights exceeding 7 000 m above sea level. Huge glaciers in the central part provide irrigation water during the dry and hot summer months. The Pamir highlands cover about half of the total area, while relatively low plain sites account for only 7% of the territory, with extra-arid deserts in the Eastern Pamir mountains.
Permanent pastures cover 25% of the total area, with 6% arable land and about 1% under orchards, vineyards, etc. Crops include cotton, grain, fruits, grapes and vegetables.
Agriculture is a leading sector in the Tajik economy, accounting for 44% of Net Material Product and employing about 45% of the labour force at the time of independence (1991). Various foodstuffs are imported, and agricultural exports include cotton, fruits and vegetables.
National agricultural policy
Though cotton still occupies a prime position, wheat is becoming increasingly the more important crop. Beside the traditional wheat growing areas of the northern and southern plains, an increasing amount of wheat is grown on any suitable land available. Similarly to other former Soviet republics, national policy closely follows centralized directives, with little freedom of action from the interested parties (e.g. farmers). Agriculture in general does not have enough support for development under the existing laws since legislation to regulate agricultural production, including the seed sector, or taxation system either do not exist or are not implemented.
Collective farms (former sovhozes and kolkhozes) and individual smallholder ownership farms form the bulk land owners (leasehold tenure).
Rural infrastructure conditions present major and pervasive constraints to the development of agriculture in the region. Currently, following collapse of the monopolistic agricultural system and the almost continuous state of civil strife, the reshaping of institutions, systems management, financial difficulties and the use of technology according to the free market economy is not keeping pace with the agricultural sector in general and rural infrastructure in particular.
Availability of agricultural inputs
Shortage of specialized machinery and equipment to grow and maintain the sowing material combined with inefficient supplies of fuel, spare parts, fertilizers and chemicals, seriously hinder the sector. The overall situation is aggravated by low salaries of workers on seed producing farms, research institutes, etc., and the poor state of the economy has led to emigration and a brain drain.
The Tajik economy has been gravely weakened by five years of civil conflict and by the loss of markets for its products. Tajikistan thus depends heavily on aid from Russia and Uzbekistan and other international humanitarian assistance for much of its basic subsistence needs. In November 1999, Tajikistan was one of the 34 countries with shortfalls in food supply requiring exceptional emergency assistance.
There is no Seed Law in Tajikistan, although various Government Resolutions and accompanying regulations on the Seed Inspection Service are in force. Present legislation specifies the quantity of seed of different crops to be produced every year, farms responsible for seed production, inspection and distribution. Currently, however, the country is unable to provide even a minor portion of its total requirement. Conservative estimates indicate that farmers use every year more than 90 000 t of seed, worth some US$ 36.1 million. In order to maintain agricultural productivity, farmers need to renew their seeds every three to years, depending on the crop. Taking these factors into consideration, the annual turnover in the seed trade could represent some US$ 4.7 million.
Regulations for seed production
The State Committee on Trials of Crop Cultures and Protection of Varieties is responsible for testing varieties. The entity has 12 variety testing stations and 9 substations. Testing procedures are modelled on those of the former Soviet Union, However, due to scarcity of funds, these procedures are currently in disuse, giving place to empirically oriented practices.
At present certification is jointly carried out by various sections of the Seed Division of Ministry of Agriculture. The system is in need of considerable re-structuring and consolidation.
Concrete proposals for the adoption of new technology in seed processing are to hand. However, economic constraints are hindering all development.
Seed supply and related system
All supply is regulated by government institutions.
Seed storage facilities are unsatisfactory. Lack of storage space and transport facilities at retail levels have an inhibiting effect on the seed sector.
Agricultural institutions - because of lack of funds and the political situation in the country - have almost discontinued any form of extension training programme.
Application of plant biotechnologies and plant genetic resources
The Tajik Academy of Agricultural Sciences, being the scientific and coordination centre of agrarian science, is responsible for conducting research in various fields of crop production, including the development through research of new improved varieties. The Academy has some 1 170 workers in various institutions, including 378 scientists, of which 23 have doctorates and 120 are Cand.Sci. In 1998, scientific research was conducted according to the academic system on 25 problems embracing 106 subjects of agricultural science. In this connection, research was conducted on cotton, wheat, barley and seed legume crops. Efforts were made to introduce high yielding varieties of medium-staple cotton, as well as some soft wheat varieties. Despite the willingness of the Academy to continue in the research field, this is seriously handicapped by economic constraints and the political situation in the country.