There won’t be shortage of food in Mongolia

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Due to COVID-19, food consumption in Mongolia increased 30 percent from February to April. Particularly, in January, the country consumed about 21,000 tons of flour and bakery products, while from February to April, this number reached almost 30,000 tons.

Demand for meat, vegetable oils, vegetables and rice also increased. As a result of adequate supply, Mongolia has avoided food shortages. At a time when it is unclear how long the COVID-19 quarantine will last, what is the government doing to manage a stable food supply and not disrupt people’s ability to buy quality products without inflating prices?

Last spring, Mongolia planted on more than 510,000 hectares of land, which is an increase of about 10 percent compared to 2019. Experts said that this year’s weather is favorable, with plentiful rain, which will increase the chances of a good harvest. Mongolia can produce its domestically needed amount of potatoes and wheat. But the country produces about 5,000 tons of vegetables a year and import 15,000 to 16,000 tons. In addition, in 2017, Mongolia consumed about 190,000 tons of vegetables and fruits, and from 2017 to 2019, Mongolia harvested 80,000 to 90,000 tons of vegetables each year, and purchased 100,000 tons from abroad. This fall, vegetable production is expected to rise 40 percent.

Regarding storage of vegetables, Head of the Agricultural Development Policy and Regulation Department of Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Light Industry (MFALI) Ts.Bolorchuluun said, “There are many businesses that built cellars in 2013 with Chinggis Bond financing. However, they do not use the cellars for its intended purpose, and the high cost of storage is not beneficial to farmers. Therefore, cellar owners were instructed to create conditions for long-term storage of products and to follow a flexible pricing policy. Harvest forecasts will be announced in the third week of August. More information can be provided at that time. We paid attention to increasing the size of our arable land, improve the usage of cellars, and provide our citizens with cheap and high-quality vegetables all year round.”

The ministry said that it is possible to put about 25 million livestock into economic circulation annually. More than 15,000 tons of meat was stockpiled last winter, which will support city's residents with cheap meat for spring. Restrictions on meat exports have also increased the supply of meat in the domestic market. As a result, government reserve meat was sold until July. The government has already begun selecting companies to prepare meat for the upcoming winter and spring.

First of all, companies need to have standard warehouses, meat processing and slaughterhouses. They are required to have a site, premises, containers and bins for sorting and storing livestock and ordinary waste. Eligible companies can register until August 10.

Head of Food Industry Development Policy and Regulation Department of the MFALI T.Gantogtokh said, “Reserve meat will not be reduced to less than 20,000 tons to meet demand in the coming winter and spring. Last spring, the price of fresh meat increased seasonally, but the reserve meat was plentiful and cheap. If Mongolia opens its borders and China increases its meat
imports, we will focus on selling our products to foreign markets and increasing the income of herders and companies.”

Currently, there are 10 to 12 flour mills operating in Mongolia, and three to four small workshops operate seasonally. At 80 percent capacity, the 12 mills can process about 500,000 tons of wheat a year. However, it uses 60 to 70 percent of its total capacity due to sales and manpower, and processes about 300,000 tons of wheat a year. Experts say that if the factories operate at 95 percent capacity, it will be possible to export flour to China. In 2019, more than 82,000 tons of wheat were purchased from Russia due to increased consumption of flour and bakery products. However, due to the increase of plantation size this spring and the favorable weather conditions, it will be possible to meet domestic demand.

In addition, the MFALI called on all households with their own yard and land to grow vegetables, fruits and berries, and announced a policy to provide additional land in river basins and areas with fertile soil to support farming. Information on specific locations and size have not been compiled yet.

Agronomist, resident of Soginokhairkhan District J.Byatskhandai said that if one household's plot of land, or 0.07 hectares, is
utilized to full capacity, it will be possible to harvest a ton of vegetables a year. He plants more than 10 kinds of vegetables, five to six kinds of fruits and berries in his yard, and harvest about a ton a year. He emphasized that he can fully supply his family and sells the rest.

J.Byatskhandai said, “The only way to avoid food shortages and price pressures is to start a family farm. One sack of seed potatoes yields 15 sacks of potatoes, while one cabbage seed yields two kilograms of cabbage. The price of seed is less than 100 MNT. Therefore, every household should plant vegetables and work their hands. The majority of ger area households will be able to grow vegetables and trees, which will improve their livelihoods and reduce environmental pollution.”

According to the Hanns Seidel Foundation's Office in Mongolia, the global food production trend is changing and there is an opportunity to set lower prices with the help of household businesses, and small and medium enterprises. They emphasized that it is possible to meet the demand for cheap and healthy food if everyone works hard to develop household industries
rather than small and large producers. In Mongolia, we follow the same policy and call on every household to be a food producer and farmer. The relevant officials noted that the supply of consumer goods, such as wheat, meat and vegetables will remain stable next year.

Misheel Lkhasuren

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