Head of the State Inspection Committee in the Agro-Industrial Sector of Kazakhstan’s Agriculture Ministry Almabek MARS:
EXPORTS OF AGRICULTURAL PRODUCE TO CHINA COULD REACH $280 MILLION DESPITE THE PANDEMIC IN 2020.
Against the backdrop of restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic Kazakhstan continues to boost its agricultural exports to China. Currently 571 enterprises are included in the register of suppliers of produce of the agro-industrial sector to China. Up to another 45 Kazakhstan’s producers could enter in this list after passing online inspections of the Chinese side by the end of 2020, according to the Agriculture Ministry. Almabek MARS, chairman of the State Inspection Committee in the Agro-Industrial Sector of Kazakhstan’s Agriculture Ministry, talked in an interview with Interfax-Kazakhstan about how checks are carried out amid COVID-19 and plans to expand the register of exporters.
- When did Kazakhstan start exporting its agricultural produce to China and how much has it grown to date?
- As you know, for us China is a strategic market for the sale of agricultural produce of the agro-industrial sector. Since 2015 we have been actively dealing with the issues of promoting produce to the Chinese market, before that, produce was exported in small volumes. These days we export crop produce such as wheat, soybeans, wheat bran, rapeseed meal, corn, barley, wheat flour, flax seeds. As for livestock produce these are frozen beef, frozen lamb, honey, fish, wool, dairy products. If to return to the figures, then, for example, if in 2015 we exported 128,600 tonnes of wheat worth $ 30.2 million, then in 2019 we tripled exports to 425,000 tonnes or [worth] $ 92 million. The export growth trend is seen across all the categories of agricultural produce to the Chinese market: twice on soybeans , 10 times – on wheat bran, 7 times – on rapeseed meal.
- What volume of produce is to be exported to China by the end of the year and have the restrictions due to the pandemic affected exports of Kazakh agricultural products?
- It is no secret to anyone that the pandemic has made its own adjustments, but, nevertheless, exports of our products to China continues. In the [first] 8 months of this year, exports of Kazakhstan’s agricultural products even slightly increased - up to 643,000 tonnes or $ 248 million compared to 642,900 tonnes or $ 217 million in January-August last year. We believe that the year is very favorable for us in terms of agricultural exports. In general, by the end of 2020 we will raise exports to $ 270-280 million at a minimum. China is extremely interested in our products.
- How many Kazakh enterprises currently have the opportunity to export their products to China and how many more will be included in the register of suppliers of agricultural products by the end of 2020?
- By and large, currently the register of China contains 486 of our enterprises that have the right to supply crop products and 85 enterprises - livestock products. At the same time, according to our estimates, by the end of the year we expect 20 to 30 enterprises to be included in the register in the area of crop production and from 10 to 15 in the area of veterinary medicine. These are those enterprises that built up all their capacities, warehouses and products in such a way that they meet China’s requirements.
- Tell us how to get into the [data]base of agricultural products exporters to China?
- One of the main and most important points is to agree on phytosanitary requirements for export consignments of plant produce and veterinary requirements for animal products. To do this, we agree on specialized protocols, where the requirements that the Chinese side sets for our products are clearly stated, and Kazakhstan’s suppliers must comply with them.
As a result of the painstaking work that we have been doing with our Chinese colleagues, 10 protocols have been signed on crop production - these are wheat, soybeans, wheat bran, rapeseed meal, corn, barley, alfalfa, flax seeds and wheat feed flour. As for livestock products, since 2016 to the present 7 protocols have been signed - these are frozen mutton ang goats meat, beef, horses, pork, as well as dairy products, honey and wool.
- How is the algorithm for conducting inspections due to to the pandemic is now set?
- Now inspections are carried out remotely, while the state veterinary and phytosanitary services provide a guarantee that in the future at this enterprise the standards will be maintained that were originally applied and the enterprise will follow the rules and requirements the Chinese side set.
- That is, if any discrepancy in Kazakhstani products is revealed, the company may be fined?
- We did not have such precedents, and we try not to make this happen. There is a mutual wish from both exporters and the state inspection office. If the a suplier started to "limp", then he will not receive permits from us. Neither the service nor the exporter himself is in interested any way in breaching the standards. We treat expert assessments very carefully and with trepidation regarding China, since unnecessary violations are not desirable. I think we will continue to prevent violations in the field of phytosanitary and veterinary safety.
- As it is known, in the pre-COVID-19 era Chinese inspectors’s visits were paid by agricultural producers. It was planned so that the specialists’ visit from China be paid by the government budget. Has this norm come into effect and how much costs the agricultural producers and the state an inspector’s departure from China on average?
- Yes, earlier it was so that agricultural producers used to incur expenses. We made necessary amendments to the law, which came into force, and allocated funds from the budget. For the 2021-2023 period we envisage 66.751 million tenge for inspections covering crop and veterinary products. On average, we expect up to three inspections of this or that type of products a year. One inspection costs the budget from 8 million to 10 million tenge. It is worth noting here that this is not one enterprise. One inspection covers 25 or more enterprises. We compose, form a pool of agricultural producers based on routing, distancing, type of product and areas of cultivation.
- What Kazakh produce of the agro-industrial sector is yet to enter the Chinese market?
- By and large, we have big plans. Now we are working to agree on protocols for rapeseed, safflower, potatoes, lentils, chilled beef and pork, offal, live sheep and goats. We expect the enterprises to be able to export this produce in the near future. As for long-term plans, these are live cattle and poultry products. In addition, we are seeking to remove restrictions on poultry and smallpox of sheep and goats. In terms of plant growing, there are plans to export oat flakes, oil cakes, all types of oilseed meal and various types of mixed feed. In the future, we also have the opportunity to supply rice, melons and watermelons, a number of fruit items grown in Turkestan region.
- In what volumes are you ready to supply?
- Preliminarily, we are ready to supply from a thousand or more tonnes of each food product item, but for that, first of all, we need to undergo the aforementioned inspection and comply with China’s stringent requirements that they set to us.
- In your opinion, in general what impact did the pandemic have on exports of Kazakh agricultural produce to China?
- Not only for export, but for the whole world the pandemic played its role. Of course, agricultural producers and exporters of our republic have had some damage, but in general, if we look at figures, despite all these difficulties we expect exports to be substantial.