Turkmenistan inherited the system of state and collective farms
from the Soviet Union, with its command structure of production
quotas, fixed procurement prices, and soft budget constraints.
The state still controls marketing and distribution of agricultural
produce through the Ministry of Trade in urban areas and the Cooperative
Alliance in rural locales; the Ministry of Agriculture's Commercial
Center has a monopoly on cotton exports. Turkmenistan is highly
dependent upon external sources for its agricultural inputs, the
price of which has escalated more that those for agricultural
products since independence.
Structure of the Agriculture Sector
Instead of restructuring the agricultural economy, the government's
"New Countryside" policy envisions only limited privatization
of agricultural enterprises and expansion of grain production
to reduce dependence on imports. The development of transportation
is critical to agricultural reform in Turkmenistan.
In 1991 field and orchard crops accounted for 70.4 percent of
the value of agricultural sales prices (computed in 1983 prices),
while livestock raising accounted for the remaining 29.6 percent
(see table 18, Appendix). Almost half the cultivated land was
under cotton, and 45 percent of the land under grains and fodder
crops. Livestock raising centered on sheep, especially for the
production of Karakul wool. Whereas production of meat and milk
rose substantially in the 1986-91 period (increases of 14,000
and 110,000 tons, respectively), actual production in 1991 of
100,000 tons of meat and 458,000 tons of milk represented a decrease
from 1990. Production of meat in 1992 declined 21 percent from
that of 1991. Fishing, bee-keeping, and silk-rendering occupy
small areas of the agricultural sector.
Under the prevailing climatic conditions, irrigation is a necessary
input for agriculture and has been developed extensively throughout
Turkmenistan. Irrigation management is divided between the Ministry
of Irrigation, which is responsible for operation and maintenance
along the Garagum Canal and for interrepublic water management,
and the Irrigation Institute, which designs, evaluates, and builds
new projects. State farms and collective farms are responsible
for operation and maintenance on their own farms, but they have
no other autonomy. Because only 55 percent of the water delivered
to the fields actually reaches the crops, an average of twelve
cubic meters of water is expended annually per hectare of cotton.
As a result of the construction of irrigation structures, and
especially of the Garagum Canal, the hydrological balance of the
republic has changed, with more water in the canals and adjacent
areas and less in the rivers and the Aral Sea. The largest of
the republic's eleven reservoirs are the Sary Yazy on the Murgap
River, which occupies forty-six square kilometers of surface and
has a capacity of 239 million cubic meters, and the Hawuz Khan
on the Garagum Canal, which occupies ninety square kilometers
of surface and has a capacity of 460 million cubic meters.
In 1983 Turkmenistan had an irrigated area of 1,054,000 hectares.
Its most developed systems are along the middle and lower course
of the Amu Darya and in the Murgap Basin. The Garagum Canal, which
flows 1,100 kilometers with a capacity of 500 cubic meters per
second, accounts for almost all irrigation in Ahal and Balkan
provinces along the northern reaches of the Kopetdag Range. The
canal also supplies additional water to the Murgap oasis in southeastern
Turkmenistan. The main canal was built in sections between 1959
and 1976, initially providing irrigation for about 500,000 hectares.
Plans call for construction to continue until the canal reaches
a length of 1,435 kilometers and a carrying capacity of 1,000
cubic meters per second, enabling it to irrigate 1,000,000 hectares.
At a rate of 300 kilograms per citizen, Turkmenistan produces
more cotton per capita than any other country in the world. Among
the Soviet republics, Turkmenistan was second only to Uzbekistan
in cotton production. In 1983 Turkmenistan contributed 12.7 percent
of the cotton produced in the Soviet Union. Four of the republic's
five provinces are considered to be "cotton provinces": Ahal,
Mary, Chärjew, and Dashhowuz. Convinced that cotton is its most
marketable product, the post-Soviet government is committed to
maintaining previous levels of cotton production and area under
In accordance with the Soviet policy of delegating the Central
Asian republics as the nation's cotton belt, the area under cotton
climbed rapidly from 150,400 hectares in 1940 to 222,000 hectares
in 1960, 508,000 hectares in 1980, and 602,000 hectares in 1991.
Because independence brought fuel and spare-parts shortages, the
cotton harvest declined in the first half of the 1990s, however.
Industrial inputs for cotton production such as harvesters,
sowing machines, mechanized irrigation equipment, fertilizer,
pesticides, and defoliants have become less available to cotton
farms in Turkmenistan because the other former Soviet republics,
which were the chief suppliers of such items, raised their prices
sharply in the first years of independence.
For most Turkmen farmers, cotton is the most important source
of income, although cotton's potential contribution to the republic's
economy was not approached in the Soviet period. Experts predict
that by the year 2000, Turkmenistan will process one-third of
its raw cotton output in textile mills located within the republic,
substantially raising the rate achieved in the Soviet and early
post-Soviet periods. In 1993, the state's procurement prices were
raised significantly for high-grade raw seeded cotton. State planners
envision selling 70 percent of the crop to customers outside the
Since independence, Turkmenistan's agricultural policy has emphasized
grain production in order to increase self-sufficiency in the
face of a sharp decline in trade among the former Soviet republics.
A 50 percent increase in the grain harvest in 1992 was followed
by a rise of 70 percent in 1993, despite unfavorable climatic
conditions. Production of vegetables declined in 1992 to 13 percent
below the 1991 level, whereas that of potatoes rose by 24 percent.
High-quality melons are grown in the lower and middle reaches
of the Amu Darya and in the Tejen and Murgap oases. In addition
to these crops, subtropical fruits and nuts, especially pomegranates,
almonds, figs, and olives, are grown in the Ertek and Sumbar valleys.
Data as of March 1996