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Crop Production

Since its inception, the Mongolian People's Republic has devoted considerable resources to developing crop production in what was a predominantly nomadic, pastoral economy. Mongols traditionally disdained the raising of crops, which was conducted for the most part by Chinese farmers. Early efforts to force arads to become farmers failed, and the government turned to the creation of state farms to promote crop production. By 1941 when the state had established ten state farms, Mongolia had 26,600 hectares of sown land. State farms, however, accounted for only 29.6 percent of the planted areas.

After World War II, Mongolia intensified efforts to expand crop production by establishing more state farms, by reclaiming virgin lands for crop raising, by mechanizing farm operations, and by developing irrigation systems for farmlands. When Mongolia began to report statistics on arable land in 1960, there were 532,000 hectares of arable land, and sown crops covered 265,000 hectares of the 477,000 hectares of plow land. Mongolia's 25 state farms accounted for 77.5 percent of sown areas, and cooperatives, for 22.5 percent. In 1985 when 52 state farms and 17 fodder supply farms existed, there were about 1.2 million hectares of arable land, and sown crops covered 789,600 hectares of the approximately 1 million hectares of plow land. The state sector accounted for 80.6 percent of sown areas, and cooperatives, for 19.4 percent. Development of virgin lands by state farms was responsible for most of the expansion of arable land and sown areas. Land reclamation started in the late 1950s and the early 1960s, when 530,000 hectares were developed, and it continued throughout each five-year plan. During the Seventh Plan, 250,000 hectares were assimilated, and the Eighth Plan called for an additional 120,000 to 130,000 hectares to be reclaimed.

Mechanization of farm operations commenced on a large scale in the 1950s with Soviet assistance. The Soviet Union provided most agricultural machines, as well as advice and expertise in mechanization. State farms were more highly mechanized than cooperatives. For example, in 1985, 100 percent of potato planting and 84 percent of potato harvesting were mechanized on state farms, compared with 85 percent and 35 percent, respectively, in negdels. Beginning in the 1960s, state farms also pioneered the development of irrigation systems for crops. By 1985 Mongolia had 85,200 hectares of available irrigated land, of which 81,600 hectares actually were irrigated.

Crop production initially concentrated on raising cereals; in 1941 cereals covered 95.1 percent of sown areas, while 3.4 percent was devoted to potatoes and 1.5 percent to vegetables. Cultivation of fodder crops began in the 1950s. In 1985 cereals covered 80.6 percent of sown areas, fodder crops 17.7 percent, potatoes 1.3 percent, and vegetables 0.4 percent. Mongolia's staple crops were wheat, barley, oats, potatoes, vegetables, hay, and silage crops. Since 1960 agricultural performance - as measured by gross output, per capita output, and crop yields - was uneven. Although sown acreage expanded dramatically between 1960 and 1980, output and crop yields remained stagnant and, in some cases, fell because of natural disasters and poor management. In addition to the staple crops mentioned, Mongolia also produced small quantities of oil-yielding crops, such as sunflower and rape, and fruits and vegetables, such as sea buckthorn, apples, European black currants, watermelons, muskmelons, onions, and garlic. Small amounts of alfalfa, soybean, millet, and peas also were grown to provide protein fodder.

The Eighth Plan called for increasing the average annual gross harvest of cereals to between 780,000 and 800,000 tons; potatoes to between 150,000 and 160,000 tons; vegetables to between 50,000 and 80,000 tons; silage crops to between 280,000 and 300,000 tons; and annual and perennial fodder crops to between 330,000 and 360,000 tons. Emphasis was placed on raising crop production and quality by increasing mechanization; improving and expanding acreage; raising crop yields; expanding irrigation; selecting cereal varieties better adapted to natural climatic conditions and better locations for cereal cultivation; applying greater volumes of organic and mineral fertilizers; building more storage facilities; reducing losses because of pests, weeds, and plant diseases; and preventing soil erosion. Emphasis also was put on improving management of crop production on state farms and negdels as well as of procurement, transport, processing, and storage of agricultural products.

Last Update: 2010-12-07