The Azerbaijani government has always kept the development of the agriculture sector in focus. This sector plays an important role in the long-term and sustainable development of the country's economy, in economic diversification and food security, regional development, as well as the reduction of poverty and unemployment.
Head of the Presidential Administration's Agrarian Policy Department Azer Amiraslanov made this statement at the conference "Heydar Aliyev 90: Economic Modernization" last week.
The official said the establishment of agro-parks, specialization of areas on production of agricultural goods, and introduction of information technologies in the process of production of agricultural produce have been defined as the priority directions of the state policy on the development of the agricultural sector in Azerbaijan.
Also, land improvement, development of villages, support and development of rural infrastructure and improvement of agricultural management were cited among the priorities.
The emphasis is also placed on increasing productivity, technical and technological renewal, growth and diversification of agricultural exports, efficient organization of state support, improvement of the mechanism for subsidizing, development of large farms, provision of support to small farms and development of profitable sectors, Amiraslanov said.
Currently, 871,220 rural farms and households, 2,343 agricultural enterprises, 2,593 farms of individual entrepreneurs, and 531 ventures processing agricultural products operate in Azerbaijan.
The amount of funds allocated from the state budget to the agriculture sector reached a record high of 468.2 million manats ($596.4 million) in 2012, compared to 444.7 million manats (nearly $566.5 million) in 2011.
Amiraslanov said $247 was spent from the budget per hectare of land suitable for agricultural production, including both crops and livestock.
He added that the volume of direct and indirect subsidies allocated to the agriculture sector in 2012 exceeded 611 million manats (more than 778.3 million).
In total, the amount of funds allocated from the state budget to the agro-industrial complex was 878.9 million manats. Some 485.7 million manats -- or 55.3 percent of the funds allocated to the agro-industrial complex from the state budget and loans provided under state guarantee -- accounted for irrigation and water management. 13.7 percent of the amount was spent on direct subsidies, 9 percent on soft loans, 6.3 percent on provision of fertilizers, machinery and breed animals, 4.4 percent on forestry, fishing, hunting and environmental measures, etc.
Speaking about the possibility of borrowing new loans from international financial institutions to promote the development of Azerbaijan's agriculture sector, Amiraslanov cited the need to maximally use the opportunities that are opened up by international projects, as well as international technical assistance to the agriculture sector.
According to Amiraslanov, there are many innovative tasks such as the application of new technologies, new techniques in agricultural management and creation of e-agriculture.
"In this sense, we believe it's important to enhance cooperation with international organizations in this field," he said. "We have to consider the fact that these projects will be realized, first of all, in the most needed areas; they are to be of practical use to farmers, so that the beneficiaries would be agricultural producers. From this point of view, we advocate for this approach to the issue. However, we should not confine to the attraction of loans. All opportunities should be used."
In January 2013, agricultural production increased 4.5 percent in Azerbaijan to 187.5 million manats, including growth in vegetable and crop production by 4.9 percent and that in livestock by 4.5 percent.