Wednesday, July 18, 2012 -
Kazakhstan is in the midst of an “alarming” drought that could reduce grain crops by almost 50 percent on last year’s record post-Soviet harvest, a Kazakh official said Tuesday.
Deputy Agriculture Minister Muslim Umiryayev said the severe climate in the northern grain-growing regions will cut the grain crop to 15.4 million tons this harvest.
"The situation is alarming," Umiryayev told reporters at a farm near the capital Astana, the Reuters news agency reported. "Our main grain-growing regions will not have the record crop of last year."
Kazakhstan harvested 29.7 million tons in 2011, its largest crop since the former Soviet republic gained independence in 1991.
The agriculture ministry said in a statement that one-quarter of the sown area in the northern grain belt province of Kostanai is in poor condition, while the neighboring provinces of Akmola and North Kazakhstan are not yet as badly affected by the hot and dry weather.
But Nuraly Saduakasov, governor of the Kostanai region, said on the local government web site that "the situation in the fields is worsening every day."
Despite the expected crop shortfall, Central Asia’s largest country is likely to equal last year’s export volume of 11 million tons this marketing year, which started July 1, by supplementing the shortfall with carryover stocks from the last harvest.
As one of the world’s top grain exporters, Kazakhstan sells the bulk of its product to the Central Asian republics, as well as to Iran and Afghanistan.
Russia and Ukraine are also anticipating smaller harvests due to bad weather.