Who’s Buying?

Local Produce

Azerbaijan has all of the necessary tools to produce high quality agricultural products and foodstuffs. With eyes on Europe and the world, the next step is to expand cooperation and increase exports on a larger scale.

There has always been potential for Azerbaijan’s agricultural sector to have a lucrative export market. With nine out of the possible 11 climate zones in Azerbaijan, the production of a multitude of foodstuffs is possible. However, trust in Azerbaijani produce is still taking its time to spread. The first step is not easy. On a global scale, Azerbaijan has become well known as an energy rich country that can potentially provide energy security for Europe. Azerbaijani foodstuff is well known, but only really among CIS countries. Encouraging markets in Europe to look at Azerbaijani produce is still very much in the development stage.

On analysis of the distribution of Azerbaijan’s agricultural companies, a pattern can be seen. While many companies import their production equipment from European countries, such as France or Italy, the majority of their output is distributed either internally or in the region. Agro-Azerinvest, which produces wine and cognac, exports to Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, and Ukraine. Azagro exports its cucumbers and tomatoes to Russia, while Azersun Holding’s arm, Azerbaijan Sugar Production Association, exports only to countries of the Former Soviet Union. Even Ganja Sharab-2, one of the largest and most successful producers of wine and spirits in Azerbaijan, primarily sells to Russia. Although this is not a problem, creating a wider export community would prove more fruitful for agricultural companies in Azerbaijan. As Azerbaijan pursues further ties in Europe through the promotion of events such as the European Games, a natural step would be for Azerbaijan’s high quality produce to have a greater distribution.

Aladdin Fermer is an example of a company with a more diversified export market. Harvesting a range of fruit, including grapes, kiwis, apricots, and the famous Azerbaijani pomegranate, the company now exports to a range of countries including Portugal, China, Indonesia, Chile, Argentina, and several others. Despite not being the largest in the agriculture sector, it has demonstrated that the potential is there to reach a broader audience of consumers. Looking at the fisheries industry, Caspian Fish Company, a part of AZ Group of Companies, exports to Europe and as far as US and Canada. Bakfem, the producer of nuts, and nut products also have a wider export portfolio including France, Germany, Italy, and Poland.

These companies are impressive largely because of their unique situation. The majority of the sector has not branched out far beyond countries in the vicinity. However, countries throughout the world have been far more active in seeking to develop diplomatic and trade ties with Azerbaijan, especially in recent years. Many of these have demonstrated a specific interest in cooperation in the field of agriculture, which is a welcome development to the export potential of the sector. Polish Agriculture Minister, Marek Sawicki, met with his Azerbaijani counterpart, Heydar Asadov, in November 2014 with a view to expanding cooperation specifically in Agriculture. Shahin Mustafayev, Azerbaijan’s Minister of Economy and Industry, also expressed confidence in cooperation with French companies in a number of sectors including agriculture. Further afield, Japanese cooperation with Azerbaijan looks set to increase as well. Deputy Director General of Japan’s Manufacturing Industries Bureau of the Ministry of Economy, Industry, and Trade, Atsuo Kuroda, expressed that one of the areas for the development of bilateral ties was in the “processing and packaging of agricultural products.” These are welcome signs that Azerbaijan is beginning to be recognized for its agricultural potential as well.

Although Azerbaijan’s agricultural sector is not yet renowned on a global scale, the quality of produce and the increasing internationality of the country is likely to change that. Developing international ties in the sector will pave the way for a general expansion and improvement of the sector. Azerbaijani companies that export outside of CIS countries and Georgia are still unusual but the developing of international, and especially European, ties suggest that Azerbaijani produce will be seen on a much broader scale in the not-too-distant future.

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