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Prospects of citrus industry in Azerbaijan

11 October 2017 [15:23] - TODAY.AZ

By Azernews

By Amina Nazarli

Citrus fruits, rich with Vitamin C and an indispensable component for winter, cover an area of nearly 18.7 million acres worldwide. 

Worldwide, annual production of all types of citrus fruit now stands at over 110 million tons. The cultivation of citrus fruits has been a preferred economic activity in some parts of the world because it is not labor intensive.

More than 90 percent of the world's fresh fruit citrus production is consumed in the country of production. The Mediterranean region is the biggest exporter of fresh fruit with the biggest importers such as Germany, France, Netherlands and the UK. Turkey is again among the citrus leaders of the Mediterranean region with about 4 million tons of total harvest in 2015.

Brazil, China, the U.S., and Mexico are also among the world's top citrus producing countries.

Mandarins, oranges, kiwi - until recently these juicy fruits were a kind of exotic for Azerbaijan, who can pamper themselves with this juicy fruits only on holidays. However, about 20-30 years ago the country's natural conditions allowed Azerbaijan to grow these exotic fruits at home and became habitual for the diet of Azerbaijanis.

Citrus fruits are very well established in the subtropics of southern region and have truly become ‘Azerbaijani’ fruits.

Today a significant part of citrus crops have to be imported from the countries of the near abroad, for the purchase of which a lot of foreign currency is spent.

Despite Azerbaijan increased production of citrus fruits twice from 2010 to 2016, last year the country imported 27,000 tons of citrus fruits worth $17 million. Of these, 9,000 tons were lemons, 4,600 tons were mandarins, 12,000 tons were oranges, and 2,000 tons were kiwi.

Chairing a republican conference on the development of tea, rice and citrus fruits production in Lankaran, President Ilham Aliyev specifically spoke of the situation in the production of citrus fruits.

As for citrus fruits, this sector also enjoys great attention. I can say that there is growth in this sphere too, but it can be even greater. I should note that it is necessary to consider laying citrus orchards in foothill areas and on the slopes in a terraced way,” he said.   

The President also pointed out the necessity to create new freezing chambers and deliver special small-sized equipment for citrus fruits.

The citrus cultivation sector saw a robust growth in recent years. In 2000, citrus fruits were planted on 1,700 hectares, now they are planted on 2,500 hectares. Last year, lemons were planted on 470 hectares, oranges on 255 hectares and mandarins on 1,700 hectares.

To eliminate the dependence on imports, Azerbaijan must produce an additional 27,000 tons of citrus fruits.

Farmers of Astara are bringing quality homegrown fruits to local markets and are looking to supply more citrus to the abroad markets.

Astara, along being an attractive travel destination for tourists, is also famous for its flavor tea and citrus fruits, including mandarine, orange, feyjoa and lemon.

To meet the growing demand and contribute to the non-oil sector development, new citrus orchards were planted in the foothills of Astara in accordance with the presidential order dated September 12, 2017 on "New measures to promote the production of citrus, tea and paddy in the Republic of Azerbaijan".

Citrus thrives in any season, especially during spring and require sun during the ripening stage, so the country’s Lankaran, Astara and Masalli regions are ideal for their growth. The main difficulty for citrus fruit orchards in the mountainous areas of country’s southern regions is the frosty weather in the winter months, but in the foothills there is no such a threat.

Experts have already evaluated and approved that the new citrus orchards in the foothills of the Astara region will lead to the effective use of lands.

Farmer Nadir Muradov talking to Azertac over the effectiveness of this sowing method said that in the foothills area frost does not affect citrus crops as no water is remained in the soil here.

“We plant fruit trees here in order to avoid frost. It is also advantageous in agrotechnical terms, as there is no need to take stronger anti-frost measures in winter,” he added.

Tea growing and cultivation of citrus fruits and vegetable are key sectors for the industry of the Lankaran-Astara economic zone.

Growing of kiwi in the country began in recent times. In Lankaran gardens with this exotic fruit occupied only 64 hectares in 2006, while nine years later they expanded to 80 hectares.

Kiwi is very popular among the population of Azerbaijan and abroad. Cultivation of this exotic berries southerners began to be engaged from the beginning of the new century. In 2006, 145 tons of kiwi were harvested in the republic, in 2013 - 221.8 tons, last year only 187.6 tons of the product.


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