Notwithstanding these large quantities of fudge, the official data do suggest that some structural changes are occurring in Turkmenistan’s agricultural sector. For one thing, production growth in the private sector continues to exceed what is reported for the state sector. Private agricultural producers accounted for 74 percent of reported agricultural output in 2000, up from 70 percent in 1999. Turkmenistan’s private sector accounts for almost all production of potatoes, meat, milk and eggs.
On the other hand, the state still controls most of the production of large cash crops such as wheat and cotton. State and collective farms remain subjected to Soviet-type central planning: Farms are given mandatory output targets and are supplied with inputs at centrally controlled prices. Agricultural reform is advancing only slowly: While private land holdings seem to be relatively extensive, this is not due to land sales. Transfers of land to private hands are carried out mainly through leases, with the government retaining the option to cancel such arrangements at any time. Low state procurement prices for major crops are partially offset by the provision of input subsidies to farmers and the prospect of land ownership after a number of years of satisfactory performance. Farmers still depend heavily on government monopolies and state enterprises for input supplies, technical support and marketing of their products.
In sum, the agricultural sector resembles the rest of Turkmenistan’s economy. It is tightly controlled by the government; it does not enjoy financial and technical assistance from international development agencies like the IMF and World Bank; and economic developments seem to be systematically misreported by the official statistical agencies. Turkmenistan is similar in these respects to Uzbekistan and Belarus, which have also gone without significant IMF/World Bank assistance for years, and whose official statistical practices deviate substantially from international standards. Turkmenistan differs from the other two economies, however, in its pronounced boom-and-bust character. In years when Turkmenistan’s gas industry can find solvent export markets (like 2000), or when a good cotton harvest is reported (as in 1999, when 85 percent growth in cotton output was recorded), the country can report double-digit GDP growth. But when these cash cows fail, the sharp declines in output and incomes can not be fudged over (Sotsial’no-Ekonomicheskoye Polozheniye Turkmenistana za 1999 god, January 2000).
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