The Goychay region is considered to be the motherland of pomegranates in Azerbaijan. Musa Huseynov, who lives in Garamaryam in Goychay, has been growing pomegranates for 32 years. Musa normally sells his harvest in Baku, but occasionally exports fruit to Russia. He believes that pomegranate farming is a potentially profitable business, especially if he could start to export into European markets.
Musa Huseynov complains that the pesticides and farming aides used for his crops are all brought in from Turkey and are of low quality. Vahid Maharramov, an agricultural expert, agrees and explains that fertilizers, pesticides and other farming chemicals imported into Azerbaijan typically don’t meet established standards of quality: “Unfortunately, farmers consider the price rather than the composition of the chemical... low quality products cost less.”
“The primary issue lies with the low quality chemical compounds being used more and more , resulting in a final product that does not meet any standards of quality. It’s difficult to get these types of products to foreign markets.” Maharramov believes that instead of investing money into new pomegranate orchards, it would be much more effective to invest money into equipment and education of the farmers.
“A special state program should be developed and a special department in the Academy of Science of supporting pomegranate culture in Azerbaijan should be created. This field should become so developed that in the future the country will benefit as much [from pomegranate exports] as it does today from oil.”
In the 90s, over 250 hectares of land were dedicated to pomegranate orchards, and this number grew to nearly 4000 hectares. However, for the last two years, only 110 hectares have been used to grow the fruit. “Unfortunately, our agriculture [industry] is neither systematic nor intensive. Agriculture in Azerbaijan is on the same level as that in developing countries. Azerbaijan has everything it needs to develop and succeed in agriculture: good soil, 9 of the 11 climate zones, and hardworking people. But this industry is not developed because our officials are not interested in it. This is why our pomegranate orchards, tea and cotton plantations, and vineyards are destroyed.”
A State Checking Commission was created to check the quality of imported medicine and fertilizers.
Ilham Guliyev, the Deputy Minister of Agriculture, claims that in 2015 Azerbaijan harvested forty-seven tons of pomegranates, and exported half of them, mostly to Russia, Ukraine, and Georgia. Additionally, Aznar factory exported pomegranate juice to the USA, Poland, Canada, New Zealand, Germany, Russia, Australia, Belarus, Austria, and Israel.
A State Checking Commission was created to check the quality of imported medicine and fertilizers. It is now illegal to import chemical compounds without a certificate from this department. The head of the Laboratory of Toxicology State Phytosanitary Supervision Service under the Ministry of Agriculture, Yagub Ibrahimov doesn't exclude the possibility that some people still find ways to bypass this regulation. Additionally, Ibrahimov states that many farmers don’t understand the proper way to use these imported chemicals. “If [the pesticides and fertilizers] aren’t used within a certain allocated time period, they won’t be effective.”
Azerbaijan buys 200 tons of imported farming chemicals each year, and Yagub Ibrahimov, an agricultural expert at the Laboratory of Toxicology State Phytosanitary Supervision Service states that his team checks each shipment for quality. Furthermore, the service is working to imporve how farmers use these products. “We try to educate our farmers with the help of regional TV and ask them to call for advice from our specialists in the center.”
The Goychay region contains 20% of all of Azerbaijan’s pomegranate orchards, and 30% of the country’s total pomegranate harvest. This year, the region held its 10th annual Pomegranate Festival, drawing in a crowd of 15,000 people. The festival showcased pomegranate juice, cakes, narsharab, and other regional products.
However, Vahid Maharramov says that this “show,” largely implemented by the government, doesn’t effectively support the pomegranate industry. Real success, he said, would be in fostering trade with Europe.