NUR-SULTAN, KAZAKHSTAN — A severe drought has led to a 24% decline in Kazakhstan’s 2021 grain production, Reuters said, citing acting Agriculture Minister Yerbol Karashokeyev, who spoke at a government meeting on Aug. 18.

Central Asia’s biggest grain producer and a major exporter to neighboring countries, including war-torn Afghanistan, is forecast to harvest 15.3 million tonnes of grain, Karashokeyev said.

He noted that Kazakhstan is expecting to export between 6.5 million to 7 million tonnes of grain this year, down from 8 million tonnes a year ago.

The country’s grain supply currently stands at 3.5 million tonnes, including 2.8 million tonnes of wheat, he said.

Karashokeyev was appointed to agriculture minister in July after Saparkhan Omaroy was fired by Kazakhstan President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev who accused Omaroy of not having done enough to help farmers during the severe drought.