Country Focus Data: Kazakhstan
April 01, 1995
by Mindy Dake
With the second largest land mass in the former Soviet Union, the Republic of Kazakhstan's capital is Almaty.
Demography: Population (1994), 17.3 million, 0.6% annual growth rate; Kazakh (official), Russian languages; Muslim (47%), Russian Orthodox (44%) primary religions.
Geography: 2.7 million square km of landlocked plains, desert and mountains extending from Europe into Asia; borders the Caspian Sea to the southwest; continental, arid and semiarid climates.
Government: republic. Head of state is President Nursultan Nazarbayevh; head of government is Prime Minister Sergey Tereshchenko. Kazakhstan declared independence from the Soviet Union in December 1991.
Official agricultural agencies: Ministry for Agriculture and Food.
Economy: Major economic resources include reserves of oil, gas, coal and minerals. Agriculture contributes almost 40% to G.N.P. and employs 26% of the labor force.
As a part of the F.S.U., Kazakhstan is in transition from a command to a market economy. Overall, the transition has been relatively slow; in some areas, such as farming, private enterprise continues to account for only a small proportion of activity.
Nonetheless, new private businesses have been formed, some state-owned commercial enterprises have been privatized, foreign investment has been encouraged and legal and banking reforms have been enacted to provide institutional support to the private sector.
As with many transitional economies, Kazakhstan has suffered declining economic growth and high inflation in the past few years. But the World Bank called the country's medium term prospects promising because of its natural resources, relatively low debt obligations and reasonably well-trained work force.
G.N.P. per capita: U.S.$1,540 (1993).
Currency: the tenge, introduced as part of November 1993 monetary reform. January 1994 exchange rate: 1 U.S.$ = 9.37 tenge.
Major crops: Wheat, barley.
Wheat: Wheat is Kazakhstan's most significant crop, generally comprising more than half of the country's total grain production. Wheat is a major export crop, with most of the shipments sent to other F.S.U. countries.
Weather in the country's wheat growing areas is variable from year to year, and drought generally occurs in two out of every five years. The wheat classification system is based on percentages of gluten and "glassiness," or the vitreous quality of kernels. Six quality classes each exist for bread wheat and durum, with the top three levels considered milling quality. Milling wheat gluten content can be as low as 23% for bread wheat and 22% for durum.
Other grains/oilseeds: Barley is Kazakh-stan's second largest crop. Other grains harvested include oats, maize, rye and rice, but production of each totals fewer than 1 million tonnes a year. The Ministry for Agriculture announced plans to increase plantings and production of maize in 1995.
During the Soviet years, Kazakhstan's production of oilseeds was minimal, as other Soviet states were considered more suitable for production. But between 1990 and 1993, the area sown to oilseeds in Kazakhstan increased by 60%, spurred by official efforts to promote production, particularly of rapeseed.
Demand for vegetable oils and high-protein meal reportedly is high, and higher production would reduce dependence on imports. Oilseed production also is said to be more profitable than grain.
Livestock: Kazakhstan's livestock sector has been plagued by the same problems facing other transitional economies: a slowdown in demand and sharply higher production costs. Yet, the contraction in Kazakhstan's livestock sector has been much less severe than in some other countries in similar situations.
For example, the decline in Kazakhstan's total animal units from 1989 to 1993 was relatively small by F.S.U. standards — 2%, compared with 12% in Belarus, 16% in Russia and 34% in the Baltic states. In addition, after declining for several years, Kazakhstan's total 1993 meat production actually increased by 2 million tonnes from 1992, while meat production continued to decline in Russia, Ukraine and other western F.S.U. countries.
Transportation: 189,000 km of highways, 57% of which are paved or gravel; 14,460 km of 1.52-meter gauge railroads; one inland port at Atyrau on the Caspian Sea.