Cotton used to be a valuable part of Azerbaijan’s economy, and has been grown in the region since the 6th century CE. During Soviet times, it was hailed as the nation’s ‘white gold’, but has, since independence, lost its profitability as an industry.
On the 10th of August, 2016, President Ilham Aliyev announced that “in 2016, cotton production will reach between 30,000 – 100,000 tons. By 2017, this number will have tripled to 300 – 350,000 tons.”
He also announced that in order to help farmers, a working group on cotton supply is being created: “Agricultural workers know that technology is being acquired by agro-leasing and large subsidies are given for fertilizer, fuel and delivered product. Now, in order to stimulate exports we will put other incentive mechanisms to use. With the exception of the land tax, cotton agricultural laborers will be exempted from all taxes.”
However, not everyone is convinced.
Agricultural expert Vahid Maharramov expressed his doubts on the credibility of the president’s claims in a discussion with Meydan TV correspondents.
V. Maharramov said that agricultural workers must be given incentive to produce cotton: “In Turkey and Iran, a producer is given about 90 cents per kilogram of cotton. In Azerbaijan, officials have tricked agricultural workers – they are given about .50 manat (31 US cents) – this is three times less the normal price. There are many problems of low productivity, irrigation and fertilization in the cotton industry. To give a cotton producer 30 US cents for his or her product and to then sell it for 1.60 is sheer injustice. In such a situation, in the future, not a single farmer or villager will be interested in this work.
The solution for this problem is to give incentives for production.
One of the biggest problems is state supplies of water for producers. In such a situation, the idea of producing 100 thousand tons of cotton is simply ludicrous. There is no program or plan, and there are great shortcomings in the new laws announced by the president on cotton production.”
He also noted that cotton procurement is completely in the hands of monopolists in Azerbaijan.
“It’s unfortunate that the current laws aid the buyers and monopolists. For the government, it is a big problem that in the Soviet period the numbers were fluffed and it was possible to fool Moscow –
but the economy is different now, and if there’s product – it goes straight to the market. If there isn’t, you won’t fool anyone.”