Baku, May 30, AZERTAC
On May 12-24, Regional Director at the Risk Management Agency of the US Department of Agriculture Duane Voy visited Azerbaijan under the project aiming to study the exchange of experience between the US and Azerbaijani experts in the agrarian sector.
He responded to AZERTAC’s questions on the meetings he held, the discussed issues, and the prospects for cooperation between Azerbaijan and the US in the agrarian field.
AZERTAC presents the interview.
Mr Voy, first we would like to ask you about the purpose of your visit to Azerbaijan.
I participated in a professional fellows’ program in 2014, so this is my second visit to Azerbaijan, and in the first visit I talked about agrarian insurance and then banks. And I understand that there is a lot now in the parliament to have such a program of crop insurance similar to the one that I work with the United States. In my visit here I got to meet with the agriculture minister, some advisors to the President about agriculture policy, in Azerbaijan. Because the President wants to make agriculture more productive and have food security for the people of Azerbaijan. So, I also got to travel out to the regions, to the agrarian university in Ganja where I got to see the research facilities, the laboratories, see some the farms and crops that are being grown and I got to learn about the agriculture production, and also talk to the students about some of the methods we used in the United States with crop insurance, to help secure loans from banks so that they can invest in newer equipment and production and so that the farmers have the security that they will be farming the next year. So this is the system that Azerbaijan is working towards to increase agriculture. I also had the privilege to visit Caspian Agro, talked to the US Ambassador, and see all the wonderful agriculture technology that has been displayed and I got to go to Ismayilli, talked to some farmers, to see the grapes and the wine, fruit trees, the wheat, and dairy production. Azerbaijan has great potential for agriculture, and is producing very well but there is even more potential to grow, and to not only provide food for the people of Azerbaijan but also to even export food and so I see these new changes in the government of Azerbaijan developing the agriculture so that there would be food security and exporting and more prosperity for the Azerbaijani people.
How do you assess the agrarian reforms carried out in Azerbaijan?
So four and half years ago when I was here I have already seen improvements. I got to visit the agro-parks and the dairy and it looked like an American dairy. It was modern investment, large machinery, lots of production per cow and very modern milking machines and veterinary practices very clean and as I have seen some progress with the agricultural development, the marketing the sales of food. You have very good food here, very tasty food, good-quality food, and eco-friendly and organic food. And people enjoy this food. I think people want to have this in other places too. So that Azerbaijani food could be exported to other countries.
What can you say about the prospects for agricultural cooperation between Azerbaijan and the United States?
I have talked with the Embassy, they are very excited to participate in some of the programs such as the program I am part of, where they exchange professionals to come over and meet with agrarian professionals here, to learn and exchange information. There is also international summer program at the agrarian university in Ganja where they are bringing in international students to learn about agriculture and to teach about agriculture. So, this exchange of not only the goods like we saw at Caspian Agro but the exchange of ideas is helpful. One of the things I saw in Ganja was potatoes. And they had a Colorado potato beetle that comes from the United States. I also know this pest. We talked about different ways to control this pest so it does not harm the potato production. These kind of exchange of ideas can help both countries. And I think the future of more exchanges like this is bright. And I know the embassy supports this kind of cooperation and exchange and I personally hope to come back again but not five maybe two or three years I’d like to come back.
An agricultural forum has recently been held in Baku. Do you think the entrepreneurs from the United States and Azerbaijan have any prospects for business cooperation in agrarian sector?
Yes, I understand your agriculture minister already in April visited the United States Illinois, and visited production facilities. He is also planning to come to the State of Oklahoma maybe this fall, and perhaps other states and to talk with business people, talk to the universities in agricultural area. And learn about some of the production facilities and to explore areas where the United States and Azerbaijan can cooperate on research, and production and exchange of ideas, technology and methods.
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