This week, the great and the good of the agricultural world gathered in Almaty to discuss, debate and analyze Kazakhstan’s agricultural industry, and Kazbeef, alongside Kusto Group, was there in full force, writes Erubaev Beybit Kikbaevich.
As the world’s 16th– largest exporter of wheat and with 80% of all land given over to agriculture, the country could be a global agri-business powerhouse. But as the Agroworld delegates buzz around the conference hall, I see great untapped potential in Kazakhstan’s agriculture market. Our roundtable at this year’s conference looked at how innovation and technology can make Kazakhstan a world leader in high-quality meat production as well as the entire value chain needed to make that possible: from genetics, to seeds, to irrigation equipment and technology all the way to the eventual harvests. In time, thanks to these processes I believe a Kazakh steak will be seen as one of the finest in the world.
Earlier this month, the World Bank announced plans to provide $500m of funding aimed at modernizing Kazakhstan’s agricultural sector. This will be especially targeted at livestock due to the ‘substantial meat consumption potential in Russia and China’. This is where the Kazakh livestock industry must focus its efforts. Too often modernization is adopted for modernization’s sake. The starting point must be the end consumer, who will end up with our product on their plate. Indeed, one significant area of development for Kazbeef is creating a smart system of traceability for livestock products, allowing the end consumer to trace the product they purchase through all stages of production, processing and distribution. In 2018, this can be done using a QR code on the packaging, and Kazbeef is proud to be spearheading this tool in Kazakhstan.
At Kazbeef we recognize that Kazakhstan’s two biggest growth areas for the livestock market are exports to Russia and China and domestic consumption. Despite the richness of Kazakhstan’s land, Kazakhs currently have to turn to Australia or Germany for high-quality beef imports. The availability of home-grown, local produce is still too scarce and priority number one must be to increase the stocks of premium Kazakh-grown beef on supermarket shelves, reduce our dependence on foreign imports and support domestic industry.
I am proud of what Kusto Group and Kazbeef have achieved in such a short space of time. We were the first company in Kazakhstan to import Hereford and Angus Cattle from the US, a taster of things to come. Our herd has already grown from 5,000 to 20,000, thereby establishing a base of high-quality beef production on Kazakhstan’s fertile land. It may sound ambitious, but I believe Kazbeef, and Kazakhstan more generally, has the potential to become a by-word for top-quality cattle, on a level with our Argentinian, US and Japanese counterparts.
When Kusto Group’s Chairman Yerkin Tatishev began his business operations in post-Soviet Kazakhstan, the idea of a specialist high-quality agro-beef industry was still a distant thought. Yet thanks to the steady rise of the company, beef production is now an increasingly important part of our work. The use of advanced and highly precise agricultural technology across all of Kazbeef’s sectors has made this possible – from adopting the latest in breeding and feed production, to packing technologies that embrace green approaches such as wind power on our feedlots.
Kusto Group is a learning business, always looking to improve and draw inspiration from the experiences of others. Earlier this month, Kusto executives, including Tatishev, took a five state tour of the United States to learn from one of the most advanced, high-tech cattle rearing industries in the world. One particularly poignant example is North Dakota, which produces as much oil as Kazakhstan, and has become a beacon for Kusto Group because notwithstanding this impressive fact, its agricultural sector is even bigger! And there is no reason why Kazakhstan cannot do the same.
The trip emphasised the enormous untapped potential of nations such as Kazakhstan and Ukraine (another major base of Kazbeef operations) when it comes to agriculture. This is not something to be regretted, but a challenge to relish. Big data, real-time analytics artificial intelligence and old-fashioned hard work are the tools that will truly bring Kazakh and Ukrainian agriculture, and in particular cattle herding, into the 21st century, as they have in North Dakota and across the United States. These innovations, as well as improving the sustainability and quality of the produce, also contribute to cost reduction, making high-quality meat more of a feasible option for the people of Kazakhstan. There is no reason not to roll out this agri-revolution right away and ensure agriculture forms a crucial part of our long-term economic future.
Agroworld offered the ideal platform to make the case for a high-tech, forward-looking Kazakh agricultural industry. This was the focus of our panel discussion and the message we got across to the ministers, industry leaders and the fellow agriculture companies present. I am excited for the central role Kazbeef and Kusto Group can and will play in creating this bold agricultural future for the country.
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