Kazakh agriculture ripe for international investment, says official

ASTANA – The international food and agriculture sector is valued at approximately $7.8 trillion. With the growth of the world’s population and its living standards, Kazakhstan’s agricultural success and strategic location in the heart of Eurasia can help the nation to meet people’s everyday needs.

Marat Birimzhan

Similar in size to the whole of Western Europe, Kazakhstan is strategically located at the centre of a regional marketplace of more than 500 million consumers. The country’s rapidly developing infrastructure and investment in a modern transport network makes it even easier for local produce to reach Europe and Asia – with its combined market of 4.4 billion consumers – in a matter of days.

“Kazakhstan’s competitive advantages include its unique climate for crop and agricultural production. It is one of only a handful of countries globally with exactly the right conditions for growing wheat and grain without the need for artificial irrigation. What is more, Kazakhstan’s arable land represents an area larger than the entire United Kingdom, meaning there is incredible potential for investors willing to think big,” said Kazakh Invest Deputy CEO Marat Birimzhan in an interview for this story.

International investors have tripled their activity in agricultural business since 2004 and according to the latest sectoral McKinsey report, the business is a profitable one for shareholders.

As the ninth largest country in the world, Kazakhstan has plenty of room for agricultural growth and investment, noted Birimzhan. The country has the largest amount of permanent pasture per animal in the world.

“Our beef and dairy herds graze freely on a largely grass-fed diet year-round. This means that not only is much of Kazakhstan’s produce organic, but it is of high quality and can be sold at a premium. It is perhaps no surprise that the thriving agribusiness sector now employs around one-fifth of Kazakhstan’s working population,” he said.

He indicated the field has changed in recent years due to major government investments and changes in production technologies. Experts believe Chinese consumers are prepared to pay 40 percent more for branded, organic and pasture-fed beef.

“At Kazakh Invest, the national company for attracting inward investment to Kazakhstan, we have made agribusiness one of the priority sectors to attract high-quality global investment. We provide end-to-end support to global investors, using a tailored package of services for the entire life cycle of their investment journey,” he said.

“Investors in Kazakhstan are also a major beneficiary of the expansive development of the New Silk Road. It has led to improvements in the country’s transport infrastructure which have provided the potential to deliver high-quality food produce to western China’s growing middle classes in a matter of days. This is also true of Europe, where goods can be transported to Germany in just 14 days – three times faster than via traditional sea routes,” he added.

Having the right product, however, does not guarantee investment.

“Many countries around the globe have untapped potential but present a poor choice for international investors. Above all, investors need to know that the right economic and regulatory conditions are in place to keep their investments secure,” he said.

“Kazakhstan’s government has taken bold and decisive steps to ensure the necessary market conditions are in place to protect businesses and investors. Because of this, Kazakhstan now ranks number one globally for protection of minority shareholders rights and is first globally in the field of corporate governance, according to the World Bank,” he added.

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