The government of Azerbaijan adopted in July 2017 "The National Program on Cotton-Growing Development in Azerbaijan, 2017-2022".

The Program noted that the cotton-growing is one of the exchange-bearing strategic areas of the agrarian sector. Note that the cotton-growing is notable for high rates of labor provision and total volume of output. The Program pointed out that there are favorable natural climatic conditions and traditions in Azerbaijan for cotton production. Also, there are potentialities enough to meet needs of processing industry in raw material at the expense of local production. It can be added that the export potential of cotton and finished product therefrom makes the cotton-growing development vitally necessary".

Regretfully, the cotton yield fell to the lowest ever level after the adoption of the National Program: average yield per ha made up 15, 3 centners. Note that the cotton-growing is profitable crop; however, raw cotton producers incurred losses in 201. The State Statistics Committee noted that cotton production profitability proved to be negative in 2017. In fact, approx. 80, 000 tons of cleaned cotton were obtained from 207,500 tons in 2017. Its main part (54, 314 tons of cotton fiber; 9, 488 tons of yarn) was exported in 2018. In total, cotton worth $104, 13 mln was exported in January-December 2018. It has to be kept in mind that export value of 1 ton of cleaned cotton made up $1481. Thus, revenues from 80,000 tons of cleaned cotton in 2017 comprised $118, 48 mln which is current 201, 416, 000 manats.

It is important to note that SSC calculations over sale cost per 1 centner of raw cotton are indicative that in 2017 processing facilities spent just 96 mln manats for purchase of 207,500 tons of raw cotton. It transpires that profits from cleaned cotton in 2017 comprised 96 mln manats. Together with raw cotton processed products the profitability made up above 120% even despite the fact that SSC tables indicated losses in the branch. According to SSC information, prime cost of 1 centner of raw cotton made up 51 manats 17 qapiks, processing enterprises purchased 1 centner for 50 manats 87 qapiks. It transpires that peasants" losses made up 621,000 manats. Proceeding from SSC reports, one can say that the cotton production in 2017 turned out unprofitable for farmers and peasants. This notwithstanding, oligarchs earned above 100 mln manats of net profit.

"The National Program on Cotton-Growing Development in Azerbaijan, 2017-2022" says that the purpose of the Program is "to meet needs in cotton products in the country, improve raw supplies to cotton processing enterprises, enhance export of cotton products, increase population employment in rural locality, raise state support to the cotton-growing, as well as promote the area". To attain the purpose, it was intended to improve infrastructural provision and competitiveness of cotton production, promote export, increase a level of import-substitution, etc.

However, Program"s plan fails to indicate specific measures but focuses on common arrangements with unclear consequences like "improvement of activity", "support", "promotion", etc.

Ignoring realities and exact calculations, the government of Azerbaijan set an aim in "The National Program on Cotton-Growing Development in Azerbaijan, 2017-2022" to raise the raw cotton production in 2022 to 500, 000 tons. It should be added that at a September 2016 Republic meeting on cotton-growing in Sabirabad President Ilham Aliyev declared that "we must bring average crop yield up to the peak of 1980-81, roughly speaking, 35 centners. Should we succeed in attaining an average crop yield, it"d be possible to pick 700, 000 tons of cotton from 200, 000 ha".

First, it is impossible to raise the crop yield to 35 centners without application of crop rotation system. Note that the application of this system provides for the use of greater territories for cotton sowing. It is essential not only to multiply 35 by 200 but also take into consideration the volume and location of yearly alternating areas. The issue is rather complex. Second, the Center of Agrarian Studies under the Ministry of Agriculture commenced to initiate the reduction of areas under cotton as compared to previous years. Thus, in 2019 the cotton is forecast to get sown on an area of 104,900 ha. This is to say that the government will not be able to reach a 2022 plan of 500, 000 tons of cotton.

In spite of the fact that the National Program was adopted in 2017, goals in hand were not attained even inн 2018. A year ago the government promised that 40 centers per ha would be picked in 2018; however, a figure was reduced twice. Thus, in 2018 Ilham Aliyev told a meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers that average crop yield per ha would be raised to 20 centers. However, a respective figure stood at 17, 5 centners in 2018.

The point to be emphasized is that the low cotton yield gives grounds to believe that farmers and peasants engaged in cotton-growing incurred serious losses in 2018. Cotton was sown in 2018 in country"s 22 regions. Crop yield in half of them was down 15 centners. Crop yield per ha in some regions did not even reach 10 centners, and in Fizuli, Hajikabul and Agsu it stood below 10 centners. Average crop yield per ha in Ujar region made up 6,6 centners. According to our calculations, low crop yield and low purchase price in 2018 led to the bankruptcy of thousands of peasants.

It must be acknowledged that the Law of the Azerbaijani Republic on Cotton-growing was adopted as far back as in 2010. Article 19 of the Law says that "insurance of cotton fields is secured by the state; however, no mechanism on Article application has been drafted, hence, farmers fail to avail of the Article. Moreover, farmers employed in the branch are to be insured compulsorily.

It is worth pointing out that there were numerous poisoning occurrences on cotton fields of Azerbaijan in June 2018. Thus, mass poisoning occurrences took place on the fields of the village of Simadakend, Saatly region on June 10 the same year. Thus, 24 farm-workers got poisoned on a cotton field owned by farmer Latif Khalilov and taken to Saatly central regional hospital with a diagnosis "chemical poisoning". Also, 14 farm-workers applied to the hospital on June 17 in the village of Seydimli, Terter region. A mass poisoning occurred on June 19 in Imishli region where the number of poisoned made up about 80 casualties. Also, 140 farm-workers applied to the Imishli regional hospital; 25 farm-workers got poisoned on the cotton field in the village of Hajimahmudlu on June 20, Yevlakh region. These include teenagers, one of them aged 13; two aged 14 and two aged 15. These are Allahverdiyev Amil (b. 2005), Huseynli Ayhan (b. 2004), Gasymov Samir (b. 2003), Huseynli Munis (b. 2003), Agakishiyeva Aysel (b. 2004). Total number of casualties made up about 500 in 2018.

The Law on Cotton-growing stipulates that the material-technical basis of cotton-raising, enhancement of irrigation infrastructure and melioration conditions of soils must be improved; however, things have not changed. The Law provides for purchase of sophisticated technology and its leasing transfer to cotton producers on preferable terms. However, there are serious problems around maintenance support. Suffice it to remind that the number of cotton pickers made up 4238 pcs in 1985; 1751 pcs in 1999; 311 pcs in 2017.

In a day or two, cotton sowing will be launched. It"d be a good idea to provide farmers and peasants with freedom and right of choice in Azerbaijan to thereby raise cotton yield, improve its quality and produce competitive harvest. To remedy the situation, the government must eradicatemonopolism, provide farming enterprtises with processing and export of cotton. It"d be appropriate if the government would create favorable conditions for producers, as set forth in documents, to get access to cheap credit resources, provide with water for irrigation, farmstead insurance, as well as compulsory insurance.

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