Kazakhstan has two and a half million hectares of unused agricultural land

ASTANA – Kazakhstan, the ninth largest country by area in the world, has two and a half million hectares of unused land. Measures taken recently by the Ministry of Agriculture found 388,000 hectares in use and 804,000 returned to the state. The remaining 1.4 million hectares will be returned to the country through legal proceedings.

Representatives of non-government organisations (NGOs) who gathered recently for the Mazhilis (lower house of the Parliament) agricultural land use roundtable noted the lack of a process to enable rational land use.

Approximately 272 million hectares, or 74 percent of Kazakhstan’s land, is devoted to agriculture. The figure includes 167.7 million hectares of pastures, 30 million of tilled and lea land and more than four million of hay.

Despite being surrounded by huge areas of idle land, farmers in many regions still cannot obtain a plot for their business.

During the past three years, the ministry found nine million hectares not in use. In 2018 alone, 2.57 million hectares were not used or used with land code violations. Space monitoring and digital agricultural maps could help make land use more efficient.

Civil activist Mukhtar Taizhan emphasised the need to boost the land lease market while maintaining land as a state property. Land lease, he noted, should remain solely between Kazakh citizens and legal entities with 100 percent Kazakh capital.  

Taizhan also suggested introducing a single agriculture tax that would amalgamate the eight existing taxes currently paid by agricultural producers. The revised system would encourage companies to use land efficiently, rather than leave it idle, a frequent situation.

“Their payment entails a very difficult process. At the same time, there is a problem that a low level of such direct tax as land tax does not stimulate rational use of agricultural lands. Therefore, it is important to improve the tax policy in agriculture. This could serve as leverage for land users to take measures to engage more unused land in their activities or voluntarily return land to the state,” according to a ministry statement.

“As part of the discussion, we received suggestions from civil activists and NGOs. The Mazhilis has always worked openly. Therefore, all of them will be considered. I would like to note that the land code has no changes related to cancelation of ban to sell or lease land to foreign citizens, stateless persons and companies with foreign capital,” said Mazhilis Agriculture Committee Chair Saparkhan Omarov, who has subsequently been appointed Minister of Agriculture by a Feb. 25 presidential decree.

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