20 million tonnes of wheat: the size of Kazakhstan’s record harvest in 2009; a country that according to some experts is able to feed no less than one billion people. That is almost the total number of people suffering from hunger in the world today according to figures provided by the FAO. Yet there is no benefit gained from this because Kazakhstan’s record harvest so far remains unused and unusable.
As revealed by the Central Asian news website Centrasia.ru, several combined factors put this record harvest into perspective. First of all, lack of infrastructure, particularly silos, which means that only 13 or 14 million tons were stored, leaving the rest of the crop still in the fields. The impact of this would have been limited were it not for the snow, which fell early in the Northeast, the country’s "breadbasket" and destroyed the remaining 6 or 7 million tons.
And the problems don’t stop there. Faced with a 90% increase in rental prices for freight cars to Russia, farmers cannot move stored wheat and sell it on the international market, which in any event, because of falling prices, would not have enabled Kazakh farmers to sell at a decent price. The fact remains that, in the current situation, farmers find it difficult to repay their loans on time and this endangers the entire industry. So much so that last November, Prime Minister Karim Massimov announced a one week "special operation" to "save crops and prolong credit granted to farmers.”
Kazakhstan’s situation illustrates perfectly the complexity and diversity of the parameters involved in the agricultural economic model. Infrastructure, weather, volatility in transport costs, hyper-volatility in international agricultural market prices, heavy financial commitments ... - agriculture is not only about production and Kazakhstan’s unusable record harvest proves so.