Agriculture in Mongolia – Sustainable Growth and the Foreseeable Future

The road ahead for Mongolian agribusiness is exciting and full of chances, once a number of difficulties overcomes in order to fully realize the sector's potential.

Millions of head of sheep, goats, cattle, horses, and camels—commonly referred to in Mongolia as the "five animals" (tavan khoshuu mal)—account for around four-fifths of the value of agricultural production. Herding cooperatives (negdel) were first founded in the 1930s, but the revolutionary party's main drive to unite livestock herders into huge cooperatives took place between 1955 and 1959, when the cooperatives owned the majority of the livestock.

agriculture in mongolia

During the democratic changes, the cooperatives were disbanded, and private livestock ownership was encouraged, albeit the pastures remained state-owned. Cashmere's high market value increased goat herding, and goats became the most prevalent of the five species. As a result, the total size of the herds has increased significantly. In the northern region of the country, the Tsaatan keep small herds of reindeer.

Crops are grown on only about 1% of Mongolia's land surface. Production is centred in the country's wetter northern regions, particularly in the Orkhon and Selenge rivers' vast lower valleys.

Mongolia's minor logging industry produces a tiny amount of timber each year, mostly for firewood but also for lumber. A modest amount of freshwater fish is also landed each year. Aquaculture does not exist.

Importance of Agriculture in the Life of the Mongolians

If there is one thing that visitors to Mongolia should be aware of, it is the importance of agriculture in the lives of Mongolians. Agricultural work is firmly ingrained in Mongolian culture and daily life, and it touches practically every element of people's lives.

Agriculture has traditionally been a vital part of Mongolia's economy. According to modern scientific investigations, Genghis Khan's meteoric ascent and conquests were powered by a massive growth in the Mongol herds of horses and livestock during the time. According to tree ring data, a change in climate in the early 13th century, marked by exceptionally abundant rainfall and warm temperatures, boosted the Mongolian plateau's grassland productivity, resulting in an influx of horses and food on the steppe.

Agriculture is still important to the country's economy today. It employs over a third of the workforce and accounts for about 10% of GDP.

Even though the mining and services industries are quickly increasing, a significant part of Mongolians will likely continue to be involved in agricultural for the foreseeable future.

Animal Husbandry

Mongolia has hundreds of years of experience in animal husbandry, which employs around a quarter of the country's workers directly or indirectly. Mongolians are involved in the breeding of animals. Goats, sheep, cattle, horses, and camels are the five main types of livestock in Mongolia, known as tavan khoshuu. Animal husbandry contributes more than 80% of the country's agricultural output. With 56 million head of livestock (as of 2015) and a unique location between two massive economies, the country has a lot to offer - the Russian Federation and the People's Republic of China (PRC)— Mongolia's meat production, dairy food processing, and other value-added enterprises, including cashmere wool and animal skin products, have significant potential. Access to export markets is crucial for Mongolia's economic progress and the emancipation of rural inhabitants.

Yearly Meat Exports

In early 2016, the government estimated that yearly meat exports may be worth $1 billion. Mongolia may soon be able to achieve this goal, as a Russian meat firm has proposed purchasing 7,000 tons of beef and horses, and the People's Republic of China plans to import 150,000 tons of meat every year.

Mongolia today sells less than a tenth of its yearly meat export capacity, and far less than the 40,000 tons of meat it exported annually during the Soviet era.

Low technology and production capability, logistics obstacles, a lack of meat plants, quotas, and phytosanitary hurdles have all prevented Mongolia from maximizing its meat export potential. Existing processing plants need to be upgraded significantly in order to increase production capacity and meet quality and sanitary standards. The costs of trading across borders are high due to poorly developed logistics and trade procedures.

Role of Mongolian Farmers in Mongolian Agriculture

Mongolian farmers must develop a good business strategy that includes animal nutrition supplements during the lengthy winter months in order to provide an adequate and sustainable supply of meat products to the market.

Mongolia's animal husbandry industry is directly impacted by harsh weather and the fact that herders still use the traditional pasture herding approach, making them particularly vulnerable to extreme climate events such as the dzud, a particularly harsh winter last year. Many animals died as a result of the dzud, and severe shortages of animal feed resulted in a severe drop in animal numbers throughout the winter.

Investing in the animal nutrition industry through fodder crop cultivation is critical for the country's agriculture industry to continue to thrive.

Foreign Direct Investment in Mongolian Agriculture

Despite Mongolia's severe obstacles, international investors remain interested in agriculture. They are prepared to introduce new agriculture technology and construct sophisticated plants in the country. They consider Mongolian agriculture as having enormous untapped potential because it is organic, pollutant-free, and the least industrialized in the region. However, one of the most significant barriers to foreign direct investment in agriculture is cleanliness.

Extreme Weather Conditions of Mongolia

The decline of pasture areas is also exacerbated by urbanization and mining. After losing their livestock due to dzuds or Mongolia's severe climate, not all farmers are able to seek aid from the government. To obtain work, food, and shelter, many of these farmers and their families are compelled to relocate to cities.

Farmers and pastoral areas are being lost for a variety of reasons, including climate change. The Gobi desert's boundaries are gradually moving deeper into Mongolia, impacting meadows surrounding deserts. Changes in weather patterns eat away at the grassland, allowing the desert soil and sands to expand deeper. Tin, copper, coal, tungsten, and gold are just a few of the resources found underneath Mongolia's surface. Mining has been beneficial to Mongolia's economy, yet it has proved damaging to the environment and sustainable agriculture.

The Final Verdict

Mongolian agriculture will become more sustainable over time. The government has demonstrated its desire to develop this area of the economy by collaborating with several international organizations. Mongolia's quality of life will improve as a result of increased food security and sustainability. Hopefully, the families of the steppes will be able to live self-sufficient lives once more, this time in collaboration with Mongolians from the cities.