Kazakh Apples Get a Taste of Technology

ALMATY – The Raimbek Group’s new orchards are an example of the successful transition of Kazakhstan’s agricultural sector and its pursuit to embrace new technology because of the many new innovations incorporated into the orchards’ operations. President Nursultan Nazarbayev set the spirit for such measures to be taken by asking the country’s food producers to find ways to increase Kazakhstan’s food security and make domestic products more competitive.

These orchards were planted in 2008 on 25 hectares in the village of Bakhar in the Uigur district of the Almaty region. About 15 hectares of various apple trees, including RedChief, Golden Delicious, Gala and Granny Smith, amongst others, were planted and five hectares were devoted to pitted fruits, such as cherries, peaches, nectarines, apricots and plums grown for experimental purposes. The company plans to develop local varieties, including the legendary Almaty Aport. The garden project was funded by KazAgroFinance. More than 70 percent was publically funded and the rest of the money was invested by the Raimbek Group.

Fruit consumption in Kazakhstan is growing faster than production, said director of the holding’s subsidiary Alma Prodex Maxim Kovalenko. More than 200 tonnes of crop collected in the gardens are sold on the domestic market. The programme to revive apple orchards is providing a steady increase in the harvest. This year, the company has already delivered 300 tonnes of fruit to the market. Quality, according to Kovalenko, is assured by technologies developed for the intensive cultivation of dense orchards. Trellises are used for support and drip irrigation. There are 3,500 seedlings planted per hectare. Dwarf apple trees can produce fruit for over 20 years and provide more than 15 kilogrammes of apples per tree. Russia imports a large share of these fruits. However, the company will not be able to continue doing this unless it acquires more land for planting and meets local demand first.

Alma Prodex’s corporate success can definitely be called a long-awaited economic benchmark in Kazakhstan. In 2008, one of Kazakhstan’s oldest domestic producers introduced technology that improved efficiency, yield and taste and metrics, such as storability and transportability.

Today, many farmers willingly use drip irrigation in orchards. This technology allows for dotty fertilizer treatment and prevents soil erosion. It is expected that the company will harvest 300 tonnes of fruit this year. There are also plans to adopt other innovations, for example, the planting of a dwarfed root sapling nursery. The root systems of local young plants are deeper and stronger, therefore, they do not need a trellis and this means that growing them will be less expensive.

“Today, our goal is to achieve a high and stable yield, which would allow us to quickly recoup costs and develop new areas. It would be difficult to do this without new technology,” Kovalenko commented.

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