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Turkmenistan Agriculture and Fishing Overview
Agriculture and fishing
Most of Turkmenistan's land area can be used for livestock management, while only a few percent are cultivable land. Cotton is the most important export crop. Around a tenth of the labor force is found in the agricultural sector, which accounts for an approximately equal share of the country's GDP.
Agriculture, not least the cotton fields, has been able to expand since the 1960s by means of irrigation, but it has been done at a high price in the form of environmental degradation (see Natural Resources, Energy and Environment). From time to time, harvests have been poor due to water shortages and Turkmenistan has to import many foods to meet the needs of its residents.
About half of the cotton is processed into yarns and textiles in the country before the goods are exported. Cotton production fell sharply during the 2010s, partly because the soil became increasingly salty, and partly because the government prioritized the cultivation of food crops.
In addition to the environmental problems, the cotton industry has been criticized for the fact that the work with cotton can cause health problems and that the government orders people to work in the cotton fields in order to fill a certain production quota. Groups that are often forced into the fields are teachers, doctors, nurses, government employees and children. In 2018, the United States launched an official boycott of Turkmen cotton in protest against the exploitation of children in the fields.
In addition to cotton, wheat, tomatoes, potatoes, sugar beets, grapes and melons are important crops. In Turkmenistan, silk worms are also raised for the production of silk.
Traditionally, the land belonged to the village community or a group of nomads, but the Soviet system (c. 1920–1991) meant that all land and property were transferred to state ownership. Although privatizations have been going on since the early 1990s, agriculture is still largely state-controlled, and the state still owns a lot of land. Farmers can lease land for a long time, but they cannot buy and sell it.
Livestock management is the second most important agricultural sector after cotton cultivation and its productivity has increased since independence in 1991. The country is known for the soft wool that comes from the caracal sheep. The Turkmen have also become known for breeding thoroughbred horses - the famous Achaltees - whose fortunes are so important to the country's culture that there has long been a special "horse minister".
In the Caspian Sea with its richness, fishing opportunities are great. However, Turkmenistan's fishing fleet is small and outdated. If modernized, there are good prospects for the fishing industry to grow, as the market for frozen fish is large.
FACTS - AGRICULTURE
Agriculture's share of GDP
8.9 percent (2017) 1
Percentage of land used for agriculture
72.0 percent (2016)
"Independent" party is formed
The party for industrialists and entrepreneurs is formed at a conference of 300 participants in the capital Asjgabat (Aşgabat). President Berdimuhamedow praises the event as a sign of democratization in the country. However, critics believe that the conference is a game for the galleries and that the party is only formally independent of the government. The new party, for example, is dependent on state party support.
The government will form new parties
The government announces that two new parties will be formed, one representing the farmers and one that will gather the interests of business and industry.
Great election victory for the president without opponents
President Berdimuhamedow is re-elected in the presidential election with just over 97 percent of the vote according to the Election Commission, which states the turnout to close to 97 percent. Again this time, opposition candidates may not stand.
New parties should be allowed
President Berdimuhamedow signs a law that allows new political parties to be registered.