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Turkmen wheat harvest falls, vice-premier sacked

Wednesday 13 July 2011

ASHGABAT – A poor wheat harvest has cost a Turkmen vice-premier his job, Satrapia has learned.

President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov fired Myratgeldi Akmammedov at a cabinet session July 8 after Turkmen state granaries reported receiving only 1.2m tonnes this year, 400,000 tonnes less than planned. Akmammedov had been responsible for agriculture.

Turkmenistan annually imports grain from Russia and Kazakhstan.

Agriculture in Turkmenistan is a significant sector of the economy which contributes 20.9% of the GDP and employs 48.2% of the workforce. However, only 4% of the total land area is cultivated.

Because of the arid climate, irrigation is necessary for nearly all cultivated land. Minor crops of citrus fruits, dates, figs, melons, pomegranates, olives, and sugarcane are grown in some parts of the country. Sesame and pistachios are also grown in smaller quantities. The two most significant crops are cotton - which is grown on half of the country’s irrigated land, and wheat.

Although Turkmenistan was formerly the world’s 10th largest cotton producer, exports have fallen by 50% in recent years. This is due in large part to the environmental difficulties of irrigation in a desert environment. Cotton cultivation in Turkmenistan required a large amount of water to be diverted from the Amu Darya river and also introduced a great deal of fertilizer into the river. As a result, cotton cultivation in Turkmenistan is one of the factors causing the drying up of the Aral Sea.

Animal husbandry makes up a great deal of agriculture in Turkmenistan, despite the fact that the arid climate presents difficulties in producing sufficient feed for the animals. The majority of animals in the country are sheep (usually of the Karakul breed) which are primarily raised for wool and skins. Chickens, cattle, goats, and pigs are also raised.

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