Monday, April 2

The myth around Azerbaijan's cotton industry revival

There is one truth about Azerbaijan. If President wants it, whatever it is, it will happen. No matter what it takes. So when President Aliyev junior decided to revive Azerbaijan's cotton industry, aka the white gold, his wish was granted. The way it was granted, however, is rather questionable for it was certainly in violation of labor rights, human rights, forcing people to work in the fields on hours end (including nonfarmers extending the collection to students, pupils, school teachers, and everyone who could be sent off their work for the sake of pleasing the leader and out of fear of losing whatever job these people already had). 

Speaking at the 3rd Cotton Summit, President Ilham Aliyev pointed to a few things:
- that how good cotton has been for the country's economy;
- that it has created employment (tens of thousands according to the president, reaching approximately 200,000people);
- that it has generated revenues;
- that it helps to develop the non-oil economy; 
- that it has grown from 35tons to 207 in just two years (thanks to all the hard work of teachers, students, doctors, and farmers, working shifts to meet the quotas set by the higher ups- but of course the President did not say this part);

But guess what, there are plenty of independent economists who disagree with the president. According to Nemat Aliyev, one of the biggest reasons why Azerbaijani farmers stopped growing and cultivating cotton was because how difficult this was and how little it paid. The government offers 55-60cents for a kilogram of cotton. However either the government does want to understand or simply does not want to help, these amounts do not meet all the work and effort that goes into this work. These economists say, according to calculations, the kilogram must cost at least 90cents. And only then can the government create interest in a farmer. 

Vahid Maharramli, who is an agriculture expert, the cotton collected in the country is also of poor quality. Its main buyer is Russia. Russia buys it from Azerbaijan for 1.30$/kg (while the costs on an international market is 1.50$/kg). There is also devaluation that hit the country and its residents, which dropped the value for money farmers were fetting before. Before the devaluation says Maharramli, a farmer could sell collected cotton at 60cents. Now, he/she sells it at 30cents. The government claim that they are going to raise the fees by 5 cents won't make a difference for an average farmer argues Maharramli. 

As always, nothing is done accordingly- rather than focusing on building the infrastructure in regions, and assisting farmers with subsidies, equipment, and simply allocating funds to improve their conditions, the government decided to simply act upon it. Without a plan, without needs assessment, without addressing the questions of infrastructure. But that's how everything is often done in the land of absurdistan, the land of myths, wishes, and commands.

Stay tuned for more updates.  

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