Fierce debate on Kazakh state aid for pig farmers

29-06-2020 | |
Photo: Dr Friedrich-Wilhelm Busse
Photo: Dr Friedrich-Wilhelm Busse

The agricultural ministry in Kazakhstan has a hard time justifying the allocation of state aid to pig farmers. The ministry has recently been heavily criticised for supporting pork production, as the country has a predominantly Muslim population.

One of the reasons for debate was a recent Facebook post by popular media personality Maksat Tolyikbay. He wrote that the Kazakh government would be allocating KZT 140,000 ($ 350) per every new pig to farmers and would be paying KZT 40,000 ($ 100) for their maintenance. Moreover, the government was recently said to have ceased supporting horsemeat production and would plan to direct the funds to support pig farmers.

‘Treachery against Kazakh population’

The result of these posts was that the government policy on the domestic meat market was widely discussed in Kazakhstan. For example, popular blogger Zholymbet Makish described the state aid to pig farmers as ‘treachery against the Kazakh population’.

Nuzhan Altaev, a member of parliament, promised to raise the issue of state aid for pig farmers at the next parliamentary session. Various other politicians also questioned the need for subsidies for pig farmers.

No more direct subsidies to pig farmers

The Kazakh government responded to the public debate with an explanation as to what is going on at the moment. In a statement on its website, the agricultural ministry explained that the government stopped allocating direct subsidies to pig farmers in 2018.

Overall state aid halved

The result of that decision was that the country’s pig industry’s overall state aid halved, according to the ministry. As of today, 2 types of subsidies remain, one for purchasing of breeding stock and one to reimburse the cost of pig maintenance, the ministry explained. Only one company applied for the subsidy for purchasing of the breeding stock in 2019.

Year-on-year increase

The pig population in Kazakhstan has been gradually falling during the past 2 decades from 2.9 million head in 1991 to 800,000 head in 2018. In 2019, for the first time since many years, the country’s pig population showed a year-on-year increase, the ministry said. Domestic pork sales went down by 8% between 2018 and 2020.

Pork export targets for Kazakhstan

In 2019, Kazakhstan exported 800 tonnes of pork against 300 tonnes in the previous year. In case Kazakhstan would be allowed to supply live pigs and meat to China and Russia, the country may establish exports of up to 100,000 tonnes of pork, the Kazakh Union of Pig Producers forecasted in 2019. In that case, the country’s pig population could grow to 2.5 million head.

It is unclear as yet whether the recent outrage will impact these export goals.

Pig farmers in Kazakhstan have been regularly complaining that it was hard to run this kind of business in a Muslim country, as, for example, no banks were willing to issue any loans under pig farms construction or modernisation.

Vladislav Vorotnikov Eastern Europe correspondent