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Kazakhstan, the grain pearl of Central Asia

Казахстан, зърнената перла на централна Азия
Recently, when talking about grain, we hear the name of Kazakhstan more and more often. After China embarked on buying the grain from international markets, the country talked about looking at new destinations and named Kazakhstan as such.

A reference to the international literature shows that the Netherlands has long since seen the potential of this country and is one of the 10 largest investors in agriculture there.

What does the grain map look like today? More than 80 countries around the world produce wheat, but only a few provide the majority of global production. The leaders among them are China, India, Russia, the USA, the EU countries and Canada.

China is the largest producer of wheat in the world. On average, for the last five years, the volume of production in the country is about 134 million tons per year. While Kazakhstan, the 14th largest producer of wheat, produces an average of 13 million tons per year.

The second largest wheat producing country is India, with an average annual production of 103 million tonnes. Most of the wheat originating in China and India is used in their domestic markets to meet the growing food demand.

China is the largest consumer of wheat in the world - in 2020-2021, the country accounted for about 19% of the world's wheat consumption.

Russia, the world's third largest producer, is the world's largest exporter of wheat, followed by Canada and the United States. Each of these countries exports more than 20 million tons of wheat.

Given the current global demand for wheat, as well as the effect the war in Ukraine has had on the market, Canada, Russia and Brazil are expected to increase wheat production and exports.

Kazakhstan also has an opportunity to follow this example and become part of the response to global food challenges. The country remains Central Asia's largest grain producer, able to export roughly half of all the grain it produces annually. Statistics show that in 2021, 11.8 million tons of wheat were produced in Kazakhstan, and in 2022 - 16.4 million tons.

In terms of quality, the majority of Kazakh wheat meets the requirements of importers. In general, Kazakh wheat can compete with North American dark northern spring wheat and Australian prime wheat on the basis of characteristics such as protein content, gluten content, etc. Most of the wheat grown in Kazakhstan is of durum or spring varieties, which are considered the most suitable.

Given the role Kazakh wheat plays in regional food security and the potential role it can play globally, it is important to ensure its resilience in response to climate change.

Currently, the country has focused on several concrete steps. In order for Kazakhstan to compete with other wheat producers, the country must focus on rapid and cost-effective production expansion - increasing the intensive margin, i.e. increasing the productivity of existing land, or the extensive margin, i.e. expansion of areas.

Infrastructure also needs to be improved. This measure will allow Kazakhstan to connect with markets such as the Middle East and Turkey. Significant public and private investment will be required to address transport and storage infrastructure, as well as the regulatory and institutional challenges of harmonizing and streamlining export processes. This is a complex task that is already being worked on within the framework of the Middle Corridor project.

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