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Abstract

In the Soviet period, Turkmenistan specialized in cotton production. When the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 led to a breakdown of agricultural trade links between the former Soviet republics, Turkmenistan could no longer rely on assured supplies of wheat in exchange for its cotton, and the food security situation deteriorated. The government launched the Zerno (Grain) Program in 1991 to resolve emerging difficulties with wheat supply. The measures undertaken between 1991 and 2013 within the framework of this program included reorganization of the government control system for agriculture, transformation of farming structure, and implementation of land and water reform. Massive investments amounting to US$5.5 billion were made in opening up virgin lands for cultivation, development of new infrastructure for grain processing, and purchase of new farm machinery. The special attention to the grain sector led to rapid expansion of wheat production. Traditionally a wheat importer, Turkmenistan started exporting wheat in 2010. Forecasts by local experts show that, despite a population increase of about 30% during the next 15 years, Turkmenistan will be able to maintain wheat exports at the current level of 400,000 tons annually.

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