Asia Grain Conference expands the geography of participants and becomes a landmark event




On April 25-26, an international conference «Asia Grain Conference: HARVEST. TRADE. PROCESSING»was held in Almaty (Kazakhstan). This is the 10th anniversary event held in Kazakhstan by APK-Inform Agency. The conference significantly expanded the geography of participants, and the level of discussion and the range of issues raised at the event make it possible to confidently call Asia Grain Conference a truly significant event in the agricultural market of Central Asia.



This time the international conference brought together about 250 delegates from 21 countries of the world, including the largest buyers of Kazakh agricultural products: Uzbekistan, China, Afghanistan, Turkey, as well as Ukraine, EU countries (Bulgaria, Germany, Spain, Poland, Czech Republic, Estonia , Netherlands), Great Britain, Switzerland, UAE, Malaysia, etc. 

Representatives of leading companies-exporters and importers of agricultural products, processors, agricultural holdings, industry associations, logistics companies and financial institutions, authorities and the media met at one platform to discuss the most acute questions and development prospects.

One of the most important and closest trading partners of Kazakhstan — Uzbekistan — at the "Asia Grain Conference" was represented by a delegation from such companies as Global Export, Xojelu Un Maxsulotlari, SanTexGazMontaj, HAYOT XUSNI, Shurchidonmakhsulotlari, COTTON LOGISTICS, ECOBORN, Inter Standart Consult. Headed the delegation of Uzyogmoysanoat JSC.

It should be noted that Uzbekistan ranks 1st in the purchase of Kazakh grains and 2nd in the import of oilseeds.

Companies from China also showed great interest in the conference — representatives of COFCO Trading, XIAMEN C&D COMMODITIES LIMITED, CITIC CONSTRUCTION, Dalian Xiangyu Agricultural Products Corporation, GANSU ZHONGSHIDA INTERNATIONAL TRADE, China Animal Husbandry Group, Myande Group took part in the event. After the lifting of covid restrictions Kazakhstan is actively increasing the supply of agricultural products to China — grains, oilseeds, and products of their processing.

For two days, the participants of the event worked intensively in an updated format, combining reports and discussions, during which they received the most relevant and reliable information on the development of the agro-industrial sector in the Central Asian region in the context of global trends.

35 speakers spoke at Asia Grain Conference within 5 sessions:

- Economy and Food Security

- Grains and pulses markets: global and regional trends

- Oilseeds market: trends of 2022/23 MY

- Grain logistics: new possibilities & old problems

- Trends and prospects of the grain processing industry in Central Asia.

The First Vice Minister of Trade and Integration of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Arman Shakkaliev, during the international conference "Asia Grain Conference" spoke about the active integration of Kazakh and Uzbek businesses, major joint projects of the two countries: the creation of a joint venture to increase trade, a project for the joint cultivation and sale of grain crops, enterprises for raising livestock, processing grain, oilseeds, etc.

EBRD Leading Regional Economist Eric Livni outlined the macroeconomic situation in which the countries of Central Asia are developing, and presented the problems and forecasts for economic growth in the region.

Zeynolla Abdumanapov, Head of the National Association of Exporters "KazGrain", spoke about the positive dynamics of Kazakh grain exports, price trends, market problems, and at the same time warned of large carry-over stocks of grains, which will seriously put pressure on the market in the short term and at the beginning of the next season.

A number of speakers in their speeches spoke about one of the biggest problems of the industry — low grain yields.

In order to increase crop yields, farmers, firstly, must actively switch to modern moisture-saving technologies, and secondly, abandon monocultural farming, that is, growing mainly wheat, and expand the area under pulses, the Chairman of the Board of one of the largest agricultural holdings Kazakhstan JSC "Atameken Agro" Kintal Islamov said during the conference. The advantages of pulses production are higher margins, soil saturation with nitrogen, and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions if pulses are introduced into the crop rotation (compared to wheat monoculture).

During his speech at the Asia Grain Conference, the Chairman of the Board of the National Oilseed Processors Association (NOPA) Yadykar Ibragimov named the main oilseeds that are in constant demand in the market, and, therefore, agricultural producers should focus on them — these are sunflower, soybeans, rapeseed, and flaxseed. In addition, he emphasized the importance of processing raw materials within the country and the inadmissibility of uncontrolled export of oilseeds from the Republic of Kazakhstan, given the shortage of oilseeds in the markets of Central Asia in the amount of about 0.416-0.476 mln tonnes.

The “Achilles heel” of the agricultural market in Kazakhstan is logistics, almost all speakers spoke about this, and many questions from the audience addressed this problem.

Thus, due to logistical problems on the railway, Kazakh exporters are unable to export about 700 thsd tonnes of grain from the country every month, which is equivalent to loss of export earnings of over 82 bln tenge. Such data were announced by Kanat Kobessov, Chairman of the Board of the National Association of Exporters "KazGrain". The systematic problems include the lack of capacity of the railway infrastructure, the backlog in the development of the main junction stations, obsolete technologies, the lack of locomotives and their high wear and tear, a weak negotiating position with foreign railway administrations, etc.

“When solving systematic problems in the industry, grain exports can increase significantly!” - said the top manager of KazGrain.

Gaidar Abdikerimov, Secretary General of the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route (Middle Corridor) also spoke at the logistics session and spoke about the prospects for the development of the project for the next 5 years. He said that about 5 bln EUR will be invested in the infrastructure and improving the efficiency of processes on the Trans-Caspian international transport route. In addition, in the summer of 2023, 3 new countries will join the TCTR participants - Singapore, Bulgaria, and Lithuania.

And the First vice-president of Astyk Trans JSC  Sergey Mosolkin believes that in the next 5 years, the future of grain logistics lies in the routing of transportation. “We call on everyone involved in exports, elevator logistics, and terminals to set up and modernize their elevators in terms of the development of routing,” the speaker said.

At the conference, there were not only problems discussed but also the opportunities that open up for producers and exporters of Kazakh agricultural products. Thus, Erbol Eseneev, Deputy Chairman of the Board of the National Chamber of Entrepreneurs of the Republic of Kazakhstan "Atameken", believes that under certain conditions, Kazakhstan has every chance of becoming a major food factory for the countries of Central Asia and China. One of the main obstacles to the development of the existing potential is the inconsistent state policy in the field of the agro-industrial complex.

“Over the past 5 years, the rules of the game in the market have changed about 50 times... Under such conditions, it is very difficult for farmers to carry out some kind of work to increase production, diversify crops, and upgrade equipment,” E. Yeseneev emphasized.

Many speakers emphasized that Kazakhstan needs to develop a deeper processing of grain because the flour market is oversaturated and there is intense competition (primarily from the Russian Federation).

According to the Chairman of the Board of Founders of the Association "Union of Grain Processors of Kazakhstan", Yevgeny Gan, today the flour-grinding industry of Kazakhstan is in a state of complete instability and uncertainty.

“We absolutely do not understand what will happen tomorrow. We have never had this. Even 5-6 years ago, we could easily predict how the market price would change... We must clearly understand that the flour export market will shrink, so yesterday we had to think about where to go next. World trade in flour accounts for only 20% of the total volume, so we need to look towards the production and export of more advanced products (pasta, malt, starch, gluten, etc.), which is growing very dynamically,” the speaker noted.

The topic was picked up by the following speakers. Thus, Alikhan Talgatbek, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the plant for deep processing of grain "BioOperations" LLC, said that Kazakhstan's agriculture can provide raw materials for the production of biofuels in volumes sufficient for both domestic consumption and export. The expansion of bioethanol production would allow, on the one hand, processing surplus crops within the country, and, on the other hand, supplying a high-margin product to foreign markets. Another aspect is environmental. The use of benzanol (analogous to European gasoline E10) can reduce vehicle emissions by 45%.

And Laura Bergibayeva, the Head of Sales Department of KazFoodProducts LLC said that Kazakhstan is increasing the production of syrups and starches. According to the speaker, starch is a high-margin export product, underestimated due to complex logistics. However, the price for these products in the markets of large consumers (Turkey, USA, etc.) well compensates for expensive logistics.

Well-known market experts also spoke at the Asia Grain Conference, presenting trends, estimates, and forecasts for the global and regional grain and oilseed markets: Alexander Karavaytsev, Senior Economist with International Grains Council (IGC, Great Britain), Jonathan Grange, partner at Sunstone Brokers ( Switzerland) and Andriy Kupchenko, Head of Analysts with APK-Inform Agency.

The value of the Asia Grain Conference is that it is of a practical nature — in the course of communication and discussion, you can develop interesting solutions and see perspectives, ask questions to representatives of government agencies, and get feedback from them. Thus, during the conference, the Director of Eastern Express LLP Gulzhazira Akbergenova informed about the existence of a discount for the transportation of wheat and flour through the transit section of Keles exp. - Galaba exp., which in fact no one uses in practice. In turn, the President of the Union of Grain Processors of Kazakhstan, Alikhan Talgatbek, turned to KTZ and the Ministry of Trade, whose representative was present in the hall, with a request to clarify the issue regarding this discount.

Of course, an important part of the forum was communication on the sidelines, where participants could make useful contacts, discuss options for mutually beneficial cooperation, find new customers, partners and like-minded people.

The 10th anniversary conference in Kazakhstan is over — it has become very informative, eventful, crowded, sharp, energetic, and useful.

On behalf of the organizers, we thank all partners, sponsors, speakers, and participants for supporting the project and active participation in it. Together we can make it even more interesting!

The next meeting place for participants of the agricultural market in the Central Asian region will be the international conference in Uzbekistan - "Asia Grains & Oils in Tashkent", September 14-15, which will be held for the third time — follow the announcements of events in our news feed!