Cultivation of tea in Lenkoran' Lowlands
Courtesy Embassy of Azerbaijan, Washington
The major agricultural cash crops are grapes, cotton,
tobacco, citrus fruits, and vegetables. The first three crops
account for over half of all production, and the last two
together account for an additional 30 percent. Livestock, dairy
products, and wine and spirits are also important farm products
table 13, Appendix).
In the early 1990s, Azerbaijan's agricultural sector required
substantial restructuring if it was to realize its vast
potential. Prices for agricultural products did not rise as fast
as the cost of inputs; the Soviet-era collective farm system
discouraged private initiative; equipment in general and the
irrigation system in particular were outdated; modern technology
had not been introduced widely; and administration of
agricultural programs was ineffective.
Most of Azerbaijan's cultivated lands, which total over 1
million hectares, are irrigated by more than 40,000 kilometers of
canals and pipelines. The varied climate allows cultivation of a
wide variety of crops, ranging from peaches to almonds and from
rice to cotton. In the early 1990s, agricultural production
contributed about 30 to 40 percent of Azerbaijan's net material
Glossary), while directly employing about onethird of the labor force and providing a livelihood to about half
the country's population. In the early postwar decades,
Azerbaijan's major cash crops were cotton and tobacco, but in the
1970s grapes became the most productive crop. An anti-alcohol
campaign by Moscow in the mid-1980s contributed to a sharp
decline in grape production in the late 1980s. In 1991 grapes
accounted for over 20 percent of agricultural production,
followed closely by cotton.
Production of virtually all crops declined in the early
1990s. In 1990 work stoppages and anti-Soviet demonstrations
contributed to declines in agricultural production. The conflict
in Nagorno-Karabakh, the site of about one-third of Azerbaijan's
croplands, substantially reduced agricultural production
beginning in 1989. In 1992 agriculture's contribution to NMP
declined by 22 percent. This drop was attributed mainly to cool
weather, which reduced cotton and grape harvests, and to the
continuation of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The conflictinduced blockade of the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic also
disrupted agriculture there.
An estimated 1,200 state and cooperative farms are in
operation in Azerbaijan, with little actual difference between
the rights and privileges of state and cooperative holdings.
Small private garden plots, constituting only a fraction of total
cultivated land, contribute as much as 20 percent of agricultural
production and more than half of livestock production. Private
landholders do not have equal access, however, to the inputs,
services, and financing that would maximize their output.
The Azerbaijani Ministry of Agriculture and Food runs
procurement centers dispersed throughout the country for
government purchase of most of the tobacco, cotton, tea, silk,
and grapes that are produced. The Ministry of Grain and Bread
Products runs similar operations that buy a major portion of
grain production. Remaining crops are sold in the private sector.
Data as of March 1994