By John Benedict Santos | Market Innovation Division (MID) | DTI-Export Marketing Bureau

Published also in Business Mirror

KAZAKHSTAN, a landlocked country at the heart of Central Asia and strategically connected with Europe and Asia, is a market largely untapped by the Philippines.

As an export partner, Kazakhstan ranks 112th out of 211 export partners of the Philippines. Trade is valued at $1.57 million. That country ranks 12th in oil reserves and 20th in gas reserves in the world, with their top exports crude petroleum ($19.9 billion in 2017) and petroleum gas ($2.4 billion in 2017).

Despite gaining independence only after the Cold War, Kazakhstan transitioned its economy from lower middle-income to upper middle-income status in less than two decades. Its GDP is 60 percent of Central Asia’s, making it the most economically developed country in that region and greater than the combined GDP of the remaining Central Asian economies.

Similar to the Philippines, Kazakhstan finds itself in the influence of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Because of the country’s abundance in oil and natural-gas reserves, China sees Kazakhstan as a critical component of the BRI land bridge through Eurasia. China and Kazakhstan recently agreed to upgrade their common border area in Khorgos and is poised to rival Germany’s Duisburg by becoming the biggest dry port in the world. This will prove to be economical for China, Kazakhstan and their neighboring countries, cutting travel time of cargoes to about 15 days from the previous four weeks to six weeks.

Kazakhstan encounters a domestic fruit-production shortage of roughly half a million tons a year. According to the Kazakhstan State Statistics Commission, 628,000 tons of fruit produce were imported by the country in 2015. Grapes, apples, dried fruits and nut mixes, citrus and bananas were the top 5 products imported by Kazakhstan in that period. Demand for fruits is expected to rise by 5 percent year-on-year.

Similarly, Kazakhstan imported 520,000 tons of vegetables, with the top 5 products being onions and garlic; carrots, turnips and beets; potatoes; cabbages; and tomatoes. Kazakhstan largely imports its produce from neighboring countries Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan.

Most of Kazakhstan’s processed fruits and vegetables such as juices, vegetable sauce, canned goods, or frozen fruit and vegetables are imported. The Kazakhs are huge consumers of processed fruits and vegetables, and they depend on overseas companies to supply the remaining demand of their citizens. The country produces around 19,000 tons of processed fruits and vegetables yearly, while imports reach around 229,000 tons a year. The trend is expected to grow at an annual rate of 2 percent and is expected to hit 252,000 tons.

Some of the food fairs in Kazakhstan are WorldFood Kazakhstan, the region’s leading international forum for engaging with the country’s food and beverages sector; ColdChain Kazakhstan, a Cold Chain Services Exhibition; and InterFood Astana, an international exhibition of food, drinks, packaging and equipment in the food industry.

Exporters interested in the Kazakhstan and Central Asian Market may contact the DTI-EMB Market Innovation Division at (+632) 465.3300 local 218.

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