Yerkin Tatishev: “Kazakhstan’s water stress issue must be resolved urgently”

Yerkin Tatishev, the Kazakhstani government and Valmont Industries have joined forces to open a factory producing 1,000 pivot irrigation machines a year.

Yerkin Tatishev, the founding Chairman of Kusto Group, aims to unlock Kazakhstan’s agricultural potential and help the country become a global food provider through a new cooperation with the Kazakhstani government and Valmont Industries.

A factory producing at least 1,000 pivot irrigation machines a year will be constructed in Kazakhstan as part of the agreement.

The deal also includes provisions to equip a network of farms with the advanced irrigation technologies and training of local farmers.

Tatishev: “The rivers will disappear if we do not do something”

Tatishev asserts that educating farmers about responsible water management is essential for Kazakhstan’s future if you ask Yerkin.

“According to the UN, Kazakhstan is a country with high water stress, and the situation is getting worse. We are very dependent on our neighbors; water comes to us from Central Asia and China. Plus, due to the great distance from the seas and irregular precipitation, we have a high risk of drought,” he says and continues:

“There is evidence that the Syr Darya and Amu Darya rivers lose about 2-3% of their water per year.  This is scary. Imagine, some 30 years will pass, and if nothing changes, then these rivers will simply disappear. Therefore, the issue must be resolved urgently,” Yerkin Tatishev stresses.

Working with a pioneering force

He adds that because of global warming, it is not possible to solely rely on natural water sources anymore. Therefore, the collaboration with Valmont Industries, which is a pioneering force in the field of mechanical irrigation, is a great step in the right direction.

“They know how to preserve natural water and properly store and distribute it. Therefore, it was very important to get a player of this level to come to Kazakhstan,” Yerkin Tatishev says.

Crop production is the backbone of agriculture, and water is the key element in any kind of crop production.

“Considering our geography and history, it is more profitable for us not to sell crop products but to move to the next stage; to convert feed into protein and, for instance, engage in animal husbandry. But this cannot be achieved without high-quality feed, and for this, we need stable sources of irrigation water,” Yerkin Tatishev states.

More than a business partner to Yerkin Tatishev

Yerkin Tatishev and Kusto Group approach each of their partnerships as part of an effort to nurture long-term initiatives.

Valmont Industries and Kusto Group have worked together on other matters for years, so it was only a matter of time until they saw the potential in irrigation systems in Kazakhstan.

Tatishev stresses that Valmont Industries is not just a business partner but also a leader in its field that will help the country and its farmers to improve the comprehensive management of land and water resources.

When their joint factory is ready for inauguration, about half of the annual 1,000 pivot irrigation machines produced will be earmarked for sale in Kazakhstan, while the rest will be exported to Western China and Eastern Europe among other places.

Tatishev: “Machines will lead to increase in crop production”

The new machines will make it possible to save between 50-75% in current water usage. That paves the way for either conserving the water or increasing the irrigated area.

Yerkin Tatishev estimates that 400-500 new pivot irrigation machines in Kazakhstan a year will increase crop production in the country by $100-200 million every year.

“If these products are used in the form of feed for animal husbandry, then the volume of new products will grow by $300-450 million per year in terms of the cost of export beef, for instance,” Tatishev explains. “If you then process this meat into sausages or other meat products, you can safely multiply these numbers by two or three.”

The average payback period of the pivot irrigation machines is three to five years, and the machines last 20 to 30 years on average.

The government financially supports the farmers

While the exact location of the factory has not been set, Tatishev expects it to be strategically placed in the Almaty region of Kazakhstan.

He says that production at the plant will begin no later than January 1st, 2025.

“From the moment we receive the land for the plant and formalize it, we plan to launch the factory within 30 months,” Yerkin Tatishev says.

He stresses that the Kazakhstani government also plays a pivotal role in the project.

“We must pay tribute to the government, the Ministry of National Economy and the Ministry of Agriculture. We are supported by the government, pledging to provide economic benefits and giving guarantees that the state will finance the costs of the installations for the farmers,” he explains.

“The state assumes the costs of establishing infrastructure in the fields. These are very large-scale projects that businesses will not pull, and only the government can handle them. That is why we needed a third party in our agreement with the Americans; a state in whose hands is the issue of managing the country’s water resources,” Yerkin Tatishev adds.