31-year-old Sergazy Bekmurat can be called one of the most unique lemonologists in southern Kazakhstan. Lemons for him are not only a way of earning money, a business niche, but more — a matter of life. This citrus was for Sergazy the cultivation, study, popularization and training, descriptions and endless admiration. Today, the farmer reserves his own nursery and lemonary, breeding experiments, dozens of training seminars, and a book in which he summarized his more than 10 years of experience in the lemon business. In conversation with “Капитал.kz” he told how his lemon “epic” began, what are the advantages of growing this crop and shared his own tips for running a lemon business.
The passion for lemons began in Uzbekistan, where Sergazy is from and where his parents still live. Something had always been grown on the courtyard plot of his father’s house for as long as he could remember from childhood. The first greenhouse in the yard appeared in the late 1990s. So he began to understand the peculiarities of crop production in the closed ground practically from school age and continued in his student years. Growing tomatoes, cucumbers and cabbage in the greenhouse had to be stopped in the 2000s due to the rise in the price of gas and the introduction of a ban on its use for commercial purposes. Then one of the friends advised the family to repurpose the greenhouse for lemons.
“We were mainly interested in the fact that lemon does not require high temperatures in winter,” recalls Sergazy Bekmurat. — While cucumbers and tomatoes need at least 15-16 degrees, lemons can withstand temperatures up to minus 2-3. In case of severe frosts, the inside should be maintained up to plus 3 degrees. That is, from the economic side, it is very profitable: in a warm southern climate, the cost of coal for heating is minimal, and sometimes it is not required at all.”
This factor was crucial for the transition to lemons. After planting a sample of citrus on five acres, he received the first crop for the third year. On the fourth day, some bushes produced up to a hundred kilos of fruit. Beginner limonoid realized it’s gone. And laid another lemonary with an area of 30 acres, where 650 trees were planted. At least 90 kg of lemons are produced from each of them, at most — up to 200, the highest result was 238 kg. At the same time, as you know, every year the yield of lemons increases.
Kazakhstan lemons? — Not believe
The Uzbek base became the basis for building a business in Shymkent. In 2009 year Sergazy moved to live in his historical homeland. He settled in the residential district for oralmans Asar, where each house was assigned 10 acres of private land. Uzbek lemon varieties have taken root well in a similar climate. Sergazy set up a nursery on a three-hundred-acre yard greenhouse, and then planted a lemonary with an area of 1 ha in the Sairam district.
Both directions of the lemon business, due to the high demand, bring the farmer a stable income. The Kazakh consumer has tasted the natural taste and quality of domestic lemons and prefers them to foreign ones. However, many still do not believe that they are grown in our country.
From each of the two thousand lemon bushes in the Sairam lemonary last year, 60-70 kg were collected. Since they are actually just beginning to bear fruit, large harvests are yet to come. But about 10-11 thousand seedlings are sold annually.
We need more lemons!
Commercial details Sergazy Bekmurat was not to go. But the success of its business is evidenced not only by the expansion of the scale of lemon plantations directly (this year Sergazy plans to divide another lemonary into 5 hectares-ed.), but also by the areas of activity. So, the company created by him is also engaged in the production of greenhouses. A farmer recently opened a cafe built at his own expense.
But its interests are not limited to a single business. Thanks to his help and advice, about a dozen families in Asar also began to earn on lemons. He shares his knowledge about the peculiarities of growing lemons in greenhouses not only with his fellow countrymen. This January, it conducts free training seminars on lemon business organized by the public Association “Auyldy koteremiz — Revive the village” in different cities of Kazakhstan. You can also get acquainted with his personal achievements and experience in a book written by him in collaboration with his father, dedicated to growing citrus fruits in the closed ground.
Strange as it may seem, he does not see his students as potential competitors. On the contrary, as the farmer admitted, he is interested in growing as many lemons as possible in Kazakhstan.
“I studied statistics in this area, and it turned out that Kazakhstan imports 99% of citrus fruits, “he says.” Lemons are brought from China, Turkey, Iran, Tunisia, Israel, and even Latin America. How much currency is flowing abroad?! At the same time, the climate of the southern regions — South Kazakhstan, Almaty, Zhambyl and Kyzylorda-is suitable for growing citrus fruits. And we need to take advantage of this!»
So far, all lemon plantings in South Kazakhstan, according to his data, occupy a total of only about a dozen hectares. As the farmer noted with regret, Kazakhstan does not have its own domestic varieties of lemons, or even a school of lemon science.
That is why he is always open for cooperation and is willing to share his knowledge and secrets with his compatriots.
How do I start a business like this?
However, there are no secrets in growing lemons, says Sergazy, you just need to work and have patience. “You need to clearly maintain agricultural technology: water on time, prune on time, apply fertilizers, micro-and macro-elements, manure, process, prune, etc.,” he explains. — All these processes should work like clockwork. Moreover, in order for it to work effectively, you do not need a special agronomic education: if you want, everyone will get it. An important point is that you should not save on certain costs, investments, even if they are not cheap. Without investment, you will not get the desired result.”
But all investments and efforts, as Sergazy assures, will definitely pay off and then begin to make a profit. And provides specific calculations: “If we are talking about a serious lemon business in a greenhouse, and not growing lemon at home in pots for personal use, then I advise you to start working on at least 5 acres. You can plant 100 seedlings on them, the cost will be two million tenge. In three years, when the lemon trees begin to bear fruit, the money invested will be returned by selling them. So you can’t make money on lemons right away, you’ll have to wait. Well, while the lemons are growing, you can simultaneously do another crop that yields in the same year, for example, tomatoes, cucumbers, herbs.”
Sergazy considers his unequivocal choice in favor of lemons to be the best. “Of all the things I tried to make and plant, the lemon business was the most profitable,” he shares his conclusions. — The most important plus, as I have already said, is energy efficiency, that is, in winter you do not need to spend a lot on heating. Labor is also not required much. The costs in this case are relatively small. At the same time, the crop yield is very high. In addition, taking care of lemons does not take up much time, so I can spend more time with my family and children.”
Speaking about the attractiveness of growing a lemon due to its great benefits, fragrance, and aesthetic appearance, the farmer poetically noted its similarity to the human race: “the Fruit of a lemon, like a human cub in the womb, ripens for nine months. But in General, the life of a lemon, like a human life, lasts 80-100 years.”
The entrepreneur is not inclined to idealize both his own success and the lemon business as a whole. He admits that no one guarantees a 100% result, that this case, like any other, can be fraught with risks and problems. By the way, there were also difficulties on his way. “At first, like all Kazakhs, we planted it, and then we thought about it,” he sneers at himself. – After listening to the advice of outsiders, they planted bushes at a distance of one meter by one meter. A year later, they grew like a jungle, we just couldn’t get through. We had to uproot some of the trees and plant them again. Then they started planting at a distance of two by two meters. There were other problems, as well as a lack of money for the construction of greenhouses. But we overcame everything, as we looked for a way out, consulted with colleagues, shared experience, and went through trial and error.”
The main thing on this path is not to be lazy and not to stop, emphasizes Sergazy Bekmurat. He has clear plans for further development of his own lemon business. Including ambitious ones: he intends to select a Kazakh variety of lemons. And this work has already begun.
The article was published on January 31, 2018.