80 percent of crops dead, 150 billion MNT buried in the ground
Though the situation has reached a critical level, the Ministry of Industry and Agriculture has yet to take action, let alone announce to the public what is happening.
According to B.Erdenebat, who is more commonly known as a member of the famous Mongolian pop group Camerton, crop fields remain productive in only in the regions of the Khalkh River in Bulgan and Selenge provinces.
Not counting equipment purchase costs, B.Erdenebat said the damages amount to 150 billion MNT so far. Some soums have started preparing soil for next year, as it is evident that no yield can be expected this year.
According to B.Erdenebat, crop farmers and provinces have been urging the ministry to prepare for cloud seeding to force rain, without much success, since winter.
“Crop farmers and union members have been telling the ministry [about drought conditions] all winter. We asked them to allocate a budget and prepare cloud seeding equipment and cartridges. We reminded them that plantation yield is cyclical and that since the last few years gave a good harvest, this year will be difficult. But the ministry did not take any measures. They have been very irresponsible in this regard. They kept reciting bad financial standings and didn’t heed our words,” B.Erdenebat told Udriin Sonin.
“Almost 80 percent of the cloud seeding cartridges were used to put out the wildfire in Dornod Province this spring… China and Russia have lost 20 to 25 percent of their crops, but we lost 80 percent,” he added.
Although cloud seeding has been effective in bringing about rain in the past, the union said that the state’s cloud seeding personnel had been changed entirely and the new staff haven’t been able to produce rain effectively.
The prices of flour and rice will increase this fall due to the losses in crops, according to analysts.
Last year, Mongolia harvested more than it had in over 17 years, but the state only reserved 30,000 tons of grain, a one-month reserve. According to B.Erdenebat, the Plantation Union advised the ministry to buy reserves from private companies, and received no response.
“Mongolia should at least have a year’s worth of reserve since it can’t manage four to five years like bigger countries. But the ministry didn’t listen. The people will feel what it’s like to live in a country with no reserve this fall,” he said.
B.Erdenebat said that when given the official report on the dying crops, the ministry told him “not to be so downtrodden and think about good things.”
The Ministry of Agriculture refused to comment via phone on the issue.
B.Erdenebat said that next year will also be a difficult one for crop farmers and plantations, as cyclical droughts usually continue for two to three years.
The consequences of going thirsty
It is astounding how little attention is being given to the agricultural industry issue when it is in such a dire state. The domestic production of Mongolia’s most basic food commodity of flour and grain has just been cut.
Any smart food supplier should be ramping up their reserves of wheat and rice right now, because it doesn’t take an economist to know that prices are about to jump. Inflation is bound to increase this fall, illustrating once again just how fragile and vulnerable Mongolia is to external and environmental shocks.
For years, the agricultural sector has provided the most jobs in Mongolia, particularly in rural areas, and received substantial state support and subsidies. Other sectors enviously point out how crop farmers get all sorts of soft loans for equipment, seed, and supplies, as well as subsidies for their production, but other industries can’t.
The state has invested hundreds of billions of MNT over the years to bring the agricultural sector to where it is now, but when the public investment started to look shaky, the ministry did nothing. It hasn’t even told the nation that 80 percent of its crops have died this summer.
According to the Plantation Union, the government had been warned about the approaching drought months before it hit peak levels. The lack of action and indolence illustrates a big failure on the part of the government to manage a crisis and the country’s economy.
Time and time again the people of Mongolia have watched governments and state heads make mistake after mistake, and hide and scramble instead of acknowledging and working to rectify their faults.
State officials and ministers need to realize that public funds are not their personal property to be squandered at their whim, and that their decisions impact the lives of all the people in Mongolia.
The Ministry of Industry and Agriculture has no time to lose. They need to start minimizing the damage immediately and manage the supply of wheat and flour to prevent violent economic repercussions. They need to do their jobs if they want to keep them.
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