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  Country profile

Kazakhstan has good potentials for agricultural sector development, primarily due to favorable natural conditions and the vast territory. The main agricultural sectors currently developed in Kazakhstan are plant growing and stockbreeding.

Before 1920 agriculture consisted primarily of herding livestock on the country's expansive grass-covered plains. Wool, meat, milk, and other livestock products are still leading agricultural commodities, but the nomadic lifestyle of the herder has almost completely disappeared. During the Soviet period crop cultivation was greatly expanded, due in part to widespread mechanization and the construction of large-scale irrigation projects. Kazakhstan is a major producer of wheat. Grain production is especially important in the northern-central regions of Kazakhstan. Other crops include rice and cotton, which are grown on irrigated lands in the south.

In the early 1990s, agriculture was the second largest sector of the economy, contributing about 36 percent of GDP and employing about 18 percent of the workforce in 1993. The climate and soil of most of Kazakhstan are best suited to the light grazing by which the nomadic Kazakhs had traditionally supported themselves, following herds of sheep, cattle, camels, and horses about the open steppe. Until the early 1990s, western Kazakhstan was an important fishing area, but sharply increased salinity has made the Aral Sea sterile, which considerably decreased the fishing output.

The first signs of growth in agricultural production since independence were seen in 1999. According to preliminary data for 1999, gross agricultural production totaled 329.6 billion tenge (at 1999 prices), which was 28.9% higher than in 1998. This increase was achieved mainly due to the growth in grain and other agricultural crops production. There were some changes observed in the structure of agricultural production: the share of plant growing output increased from 43% to 54%, while that of stock-breeding production fell from 57% to 46%. In general, the agricultural sector share in the country GDP constitutes 10-15%.

Kazakhstan is situated in Central Asia, deep in the Eurasian continent. Its territory is as large as 2,724,900 sq km (i.e. 1,049,150 sq miles). In terms of the area it is the second largest among the CIS states. In fact the territory of Kazakhstan exceeds that occupied by twelve countries of the European Union.
It has 15,960,463 inhabitants (Estimation: Sept. 1997). The population density is 6 people per square km.

Kazakhstan borders upon the following states:China- 1.460 km - long border; Kyrgyzstan - 980 km; Turkmenistan - 380 km; Uzbekistan - 2.300 km; the Russian Federation - 6.467 km. Total length of borders amounts to 12.187 km.

The territory of the Republic stretches on from the low reaches of the Volga in the West to the foothills of the Altai mountains in the East - for some 3,000 km ( a distance that spans two time zones), from West Siberian lowland in the North to the desert of Kyzylkum and the mountain range of Tien Shan in the South for some 2,000 km.

The northernmost point in Kazakhstan - 55'26'' NL - corresponds to the southern latitude of the central part of the East-European plain and to the southern part of the British Isles (the latitude of Moscow). As to the southernmost point - 40'56'' NL - it corresponds to latitudes of Transcaucasis and Mediterranean countries of Southern Europe (the latitude of Madrid, Istanbul and Baku).

Yet remoteness of the country from oceans and vastness of its territory determine climatic conditions.

The climate of the country is sharply continental. Average temperature in January varies within - 19? - - 4? C while average July temperature fluctuates within + 19? - + 26? C. The lowest temperature in winter may go down to - 45? C with the highest one in summer + 30? C.

The population numbers some 14,841,900 people (01.01.2001). Population density is as high as 5,5 people per 1 sq km.

The capital is the city of Astana (since December 10, 1997) whose population is as large as 319,000 people.

Administratively Kazakhstan is comprised of 14 regions (as of 5.05.97) with cities of Almaty and Leninsk enjoying a special status), 85 cities of which 40 refer to those of Republican and regional subordination, 160 districts, 10 municipal districts, 195 settlements, 2,150 aul (rural) counties.

In terms of the number of the population cities of Kazakhstan may be subdivided into several categories:

those having 300-400 thou. residents (Karagandy, Shymkent, Pavlodar, Jambyl, Ust-Kamenogorsk);
those with 200-280 thou. residents (Uralsk, Temirtau, Kostanay, Aktobe, Petropavlovsk, Semipalatinsk);
those with 110-160 thousand residents (Zhezkazgan, Yekibastuz, Kyzylorda, Aktau, Kokshetau, Atyray).

Most numerous are cities numbering less than 50,000 residents.

Kazakh is the official language. This notwithstanding, in State institutions and local administration bodies along with the Kazakh language they speak Russian quite officially.

Monetary unit is tenge which is equal to 100 tyins. It was introduced on November 15, 1993.

National holidays are as follows: Day of the Republic (October,25) and Independence Day (December,16).

There are 8,500 big and small rivers in Kazakhstan. The length of seven largest rivers exceeds 100 km. The largest ones are the Ural and the Emba flowing into the Caspian Sea, the Syrdaria falling into the Aral Sea while the Irtysh, the Ishim and the Tobol run all across the Republic to eventually reach the Arctic Ocean.

There are 48,000 big and small lakes in Kazakhstan. The largest among them are the Aral Sea, Balkhash, Zaisan, Alakol, Tenghiz and Seletenghiz. Besides Kazakhstan shares the larger portion of the nothern and half of the eastern littoral of the Caspian Sea - the largest ever sea on the planet. The length of the coast line of the Caspian Sea (its Kazakhstani portion) is 2,340 km.

Steppes occupy some 26% of the territory of Kazakhstan. 167,000,000 ha account for deserts (44%) and semi-deserts (14%) with forests occupying 21,000,000 ha.

When speaking about the flora and fauna of the Republic, we have to mention 155 species of mammals, 480 and 150 species of birds and fish respectively and about 250 species of medicinal herbs. Worth noting is that such exceedingly rare plant as santonica wormwood grows nowhere else but in the South of Kazakhstan.

Kazakhstan is rich with commercial minerals. In terms of chromium, vanadium, bismuth and fluorine reserves Kazakhstan knows no second in the world while in resources of iron, chromite, lead, zink, tungsten, molybdenum, phosphorite, copper, potassium and cadmium the country holds one of the leading places.

On the territory of the country they have discovered nearly 160 deposits of oil and gas. Their reserves - known to this day - are approximately equal to present day resources of the whole of the Western Europe. These oil and gas fields contain about 20,000,000,000 barrels of oil and 700,000,000 ton of gas condensate. Sum total of the cost thereof is estimated in the region of USD 4 bln. The Tenghiz field only ranks as one of the largest deposits of the world.

Coal reserves in Kazakhstan reach 160,000,000,000 ton. The Republic numbers 10 coal fields of bituminous and brown coal, 155 deposits all in all.

Iron ore resources (containing 50-60% of pure iron) in the Republic surpass those of many a country in the world.

Kazakhstan is the second richest country in the world (after Russia) with regard to phosphorite reserves while phosphorite deposits of Zhanatas and Karatau in terms of thickness and quality are second to none in the world.

Kazakhstan holds one of the first places in the world as to the production of aluminium.

The Republic harbours uncommonly superb resources of copper ore. Zhezkazgan ore deposits are second largest in the world as to their potential.

The territory of Kazakhstan affords infinite resources of salt and construction materials.

The already prospected deposits serve a fine basis for the development of mining, coal-mining, metallurgy, oil-and-gas and chemical industries.

Kazakhstan's share in world output of commercial minerals and products of procession thereof (according to estimates of the Union Bank of Switzerland) in the days of the late USSR amounted to the following: Beryllium - 24%, Zink - 7%, Tantalum - 33%, Titanium - 26%, Chromite - 27%, Copper - 3%, Barite - 7%, Molybdenum - 3%, Lead - 7%, Bauxites - 1%, Uranium -14%, Manganese - 5%, Silver - 6%, Iron ore - 2%, Tungsten - 12%, Gold - 1%.

After gaining its independence in 1991, Kazakhstan started to transform the economy from a centrally planned one towards a free market by the privatisation of state property and private business development.

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