ASTANA – Seed-breeding farms for sugar beets are being revived in the Zhambyl region. Farmers formerly spent up to $1.2 million to import seeds and the administration is creating its own seed fund to cut expenses.
Sugar beets are one of the region’s most important crops and significant amounts have been allocated annually from the local budget to purchase imported seeds, according to the regional agriculture department.
In 2016, 420 million tenge (US$1.2 million) was earmarked from the regional budget to buy Avantazh seeds from France. The amount decreased to 350 million tenge (US$1.02 million) the following year. The need for Zhambyl farmers to purchase seeds from foreign producers increases the price of the final products.
The region has a significant need to create its own seed stock to decrease dependence on imported seeds and reduce product costs. At one time, the region had its own seed farms and experienced agricultural stations and is now furnishing mini-workshops with special equipment to raise their own seed material to high European standards. As a result, farms in the region plan to switch to domestic seeds within the next year.
The regional agriculture department planned to breed sugar beets on 10,000 hectares this year, but only 8,300 hectares were planted. The largest areas for sugar beets are in the Kordai district, where farms recorded record yields last year using moisture-saving and up-to-date technologies.
In the last year, which wasn’t the most productive, farmers planted 9,000 hectares of beets and collected more than 120,000 tonnes of root crops. The average yield was 228 centners per hectare.
Since the 1930s, sugar beets have been cultivated on more than 42,000 hectares in the region with an average yield of 300 centners per hectare. Famous farmer Dariga Zhantokhova produced 900 centners from every hectare.
With the elimination of large-scale agricultural collective farms in the 1990s, the region’s beet growers lost experienced personnel and the technology to grow the labour-intensive crop. As a result, by 2009, sugar beet crops were planted on fewer than 1,700 hectares. Today, the region is actively reviving this valuable agricultural activity.