Kazakhstan's agriculture authorities have dismissed lawmakers' claims that the country's membership of the Russia-led Customs Union has undermined the country's food security.
Kazakh senator Kozhakhmet Baimakhanov claimed last week that membership in the Eurasian free trade club alongside Russia and Belarus has seen a rise in imports and prices of food. However, Kazakh Agriculture Ministry Executive Secretary Arman Yevniyev said on April 7 that out of 29 groups of foodstuffs, local production provided for less than 80% of consumption in only six.
"Out of 29 most important types of foodstuffs from meat, milk, bread, cereals, vegetables and so on, only on six types the share of domestic production is less than 80% - sugar, poultry, butter and so on," Yevniyev told a news conference.
"On all other indicators we have [coverage of] over 80%. On some indicators we have 100% coverage of domestic needs." The government is working on outstanding problems and has allocated money under the Agrobusiness 2020 programme, he added.
Last week, Baimakhanov blamed the Customs Union for high levels of food imports and a rise in food prices. He claimed Kazakhstan now imports 99% of eggs consumed, 96% of fermented milk products, 92% of flour and sausages, 78% of pasta, and 72% of pasteurised milk.
He also insisted that the price of imported tomatoes has doubled, beet prices grew by 15%, meat prices grew by 83% and the price of horse meat went up by 64% since Kazakhstan joined the Customs Union in 2010. "We are already members of the Customs Union, soon we will join the WTO. Then we will not produce anything anymore," the senator told a parliament hearing.
The issue of the Customs Union has hit global headlines in recent weeks, with the Moscow-led project to eventually build a Eurasian version of the EU seen as destined for failure without Ukraine. At the same time, inflation - particularly on imports - is a hot topic since Kazakhstan implemented a 19% devaluation in the value of the tenge in February.
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