The establishment of specialized farmer stores and 'green' shops in Azerbaijan is one of the main factors of food security and will allow the country to provide its population with organic and ecologically clean products, chairman of the Center for Economic and Social Development Vugar Bayramov believes.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev issued a decree in mid-January 2014 on additional measures for improving food markets and agricultural products.
The document noted that Azerbaijan will establish a network of specialized farmer stores and 'green' shops which will operate in Baku's districts and Azerbaijan's large cities on a permanent basis.
"The establishment of 'green' markets is one of the elements of food security and agriculture. It is aimed at offering the Azerbaijani population more organic and ecologically clean exportable products, and ensure the direct access of farmers to the capital markets," the expert told AzerNews.
Bayramov went on to note that Azerbaijan is able to meet domestic demand for agricultural goods through its local production.
"Today, Azerbaijan is meeting the population's demand for meat products by 90 percent, poultry meat by 81 percent, eggs by 80 percent, dairy products by 75 percent, vegetable oil by 65 percent, and butter by 50 percent through local production," he said.
The expert believes that vegetable production will increase Azerbaijan's potential to export agricultural products.
"Azerbaijan has a great potential to export agricultural products, particularly vegetables such as potato, tomato, and cucumber. The country has a comparative advantage over its neighbors, especially Russia, in exporting these products. It means there are great opportunities to sell Azerbaijan's agricultural products on the markets of these countries," he said.
Increasing the production of sugar and fruits will also open new opportunities for exporting them to foreign markets.
"Azerbaijan is realizing the export of pomegranate and nuts to the European markets. The country has a potential for exporting apple, pear, and other fruits to the foreign markets as well," Bayramov noted.
"Local production is increasing, and this paves the way for meeting domestic demand for agricultural products. However, the country is still dependent on the import of strategic products. Azerbaijan produced 2.8 million tons of grain in 2013 and was able to meet the population's demand by 75 percent. It means Azerbaijan had to import the remaining 25 percent from abroad. This figure shows the dependence on imports," Bayramov stressed.
The expert said the development of agriculture is important for ensuring food security in the country.
"The agricultural sector is important not only for increasing Azerbaijan's export potential, but also for restoring and protecting the country's food security. Protecting the quality and price of food stuff produced in Azerbaijan and producing them in accordance with quality standards are among the top issues of the country's food security," Bayramov noted.
The expert also said Azerbaijan is trying to ensure food security by meeting domestic demand for agricultural products through the local production.
"Azerbaijan is conducting serious measures, because ensuring food security is one of the country's strategic goals. Within the "Azerbaijan-2020: Vision into the Future" concept, Azerbaijan is taking steps to ensure food security in the country, and one of the key elements of this concept is to eliminate dependence on food products imports. The country has been able to achieve this goal in the past five years, and Azerbaijan is expected to be able to fully meet demands through the local production in the coming years," he underlined.