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In the late 1980s, agriculture was a small but critical sector of the Mongolian economy. In 1985 agriculture accounted for only 18.3 percent of national income and 33.8 percent of the labor force. Nevertheless, agriculture remained economically important because much of Mongolia's industry processed agricultural products - foodstuffs, timber, and animal products, such as skins and hides - for domestic consumption and for export. In 1986 agriculture supplied nearly 60 percent of Mongolia's exports (see Industry; Foreign Economic Relations and Comecon).
Employment by Sector, Selected Years, 1960-1985
Mongolian agriculture developed slowly. An abortive attempt to collectivize all arads occurred in the early 1930s; efforts to encourage voluntary cooperatives and arad producers' associations followed. In the 1930s, the government also began developing state farms, and by 1940 there were ten state farms and ninety-one agricultural cooperatives. In 1937 the Soviet Union provided ten hay-making machine stations to prepare fodder for livestock. In 1940 agriculture represented 61 percent of national income, and it employed approximately 90 percent of the labor force.
By 1960 agriculture's share of national income had fallen to 22.9 percent, but agriculture still employed 60.8 percent of the work force. After 1960 the number of state farms increased, state fodder supply farms were established, the number of negdels decreased through consolidation, and interagricultural cooperative associations were organized to facilitate negdel specialization and cooperation. Mongolia also began receiving large-scale agricultural assistance from the Soviet Union and other East European countries after Mongolia's 1962 entry into Comecon. The Soviet Union, for example, assisted in establishing and equipping several new state farms, and Hungary helped with irrigation. In 1967 the Third Congress of Agricultural Association Members founded the Union of Agricultural Associations to supervise negdels and to represent their interests to the government and to other cooperative and social organizations. The union elected a central council, the chairman of which was, ex officio, the minister of agriculture; it also adopted a Model Charter to govern members' rights and obligations. In 1969 the state handed over the livestock machine stations to the negdels.
Negdels, which concentrated on livestock production, were organized into brigad (brigades) and then into suuri (bases), composed of several households. Each suuri had its own equipment and production tasks. Negdels adopted the Soviet system of herding, in which arad households lived in permanent settlements rather than traveling with their herds, as in the pastoral tradition (see Pastoral Nomadism). In 1985 the average negdel had 61,500 head of livestock, 438,500 hectares of land - of which 1,200 hectares was plowable land, 43 tractors, 2 grain harvesters, and 18 motor vehicles; it harvested 500 tons of grain. Individual negdel members were permitted to own livestock. In mountain steppe pasture areas, ten head of livestock per person, up to fifty head per household, were allowed. In desert regions, fifteen head per person, up to seventy-five head per household, were permitted. Private plots also were allowed for negdel farmers.
State farms, compared with negdels, had more capital invested, were more highly mechanized, and generally were located in the most productive regions, or close to major mining and industrial complexes. State farms engaged primarily in crop production. In 1985 there were 52 state farms, 17 fodder supply farms, and 255 negdels. In 1985 the average state farm employed 500 workers; owned 26,200 head of livestock, 178,600 hectares of land - of which 15,400 hectares was plowable land, 265 tractors, 36 grain harvesters, and 40 motor vehicles; it harvested 12,100 tons of grain.
In the late 1980s, several changes in governmental organization occurred to facilitate agricultural development. In October 1986, the Ministry of Agriculture absorbed the Ministry of Water Economy, which had controlled irrigation. In December 1987, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Forestry and Woodworking, and the Ministry of Food and Light Industries were abolished and two new ministries - the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Industry, and the Ministry of Environmental Protection - were established. Among the functions of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Industry were the further coordination of agriculture and of industrial food processing to boost the food supply, and the development on state farms of agro-industrial complexes, which had processing plants for foodstuffs. The Sharin Gol state farm, for example, grew fruits and vegetables, which then were processed in the state farm's factories to produce dried fruit, fruit juices, fruit and vegetable preserves, and pickled vegetables. The Ministry of Environmental Protection incorporated the Forestry and Hunting Economy Section of the former Ministry of Forestry and Woodworking and the State Land and Water Utilization and Protection Service of the former Ministry of Agriculture.
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