The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) said it will allocate a 25 million euro ($29.5 million) loan to Avrora LLC, a leading producer of pasta, confectionery, soft drinks and flour products in Azerbaijan, helping strengthen the country’s agribusiness sector.
The loan will be provided in the local currency, manats, in two equal tranches, the EBRD said on its website. The first tranche will be used to finance a new pasta production line, while the second – for the acquisition of new equipment for the production of biscuits, cakes and animal feed. The EBRD said that supporting local companies in their expansion, through direct financing and targeted long-term advice, and promoting economic diversification were among the Bank’s priorities in the ex-Soviet country of 10 million people.
As part of this package, Avrova will set up a training programme to provide new and existing employees with accredited skills in technical occupations as well as e-commerce, and ensure that its activities provide equal opportunities to women and men. Avrora will also review its human resources policies and practices to improve working conditions, making sure that they are equal for women and men. The project represents the first EBRD investment targeted at opening up equal opportunities in Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan’s government is seeking to diversify the country’s economy, which heavily reliant on oil and gas, by strengthening sectors such as agriculture and manufacturing. While the COVID-19 pandemic has hit economies in Central Asia and the Caucasus hard, Azerbaijan is set to recover faster than previously expected thanks to the early launch of its vaccination programme and significantly higher public post-conflict reconstruction spending, according to World Bank forecasts. Domestic demand is set to accelerate this year as the pandemic eases, helping support GDP growth, which is projected at 2.8 percent and 3.9 percent in 2022.
The EBRD is a leading institutional investor in Azerbaijan. To date, the Bank has invested €3.1 billion through 174 projects in the country. It also provides business advice to local small and medium-sized enterprises and has helped more than 1,000 firms to improve their performance and growth.
Separately, on developments in Azerbaijan’s growing agriculture sector, Sun Food, one of the five leading exporters of goods in the non-oil sector, announced a merger with Salt Ltd, Turan news agency reported. Though farming contributes only six per cent of the economy, it’s seen as key area in stimulating growth of the non-oil sector, job creation and to increase food security in the country.
Sun Food LLC has been operating since 2003 and is part of the Azersun Holding. The company’s export rose to $33.8 million in 2020 from 28.4 million in 2019.
Salt Ltd was established in December 2016 in the second biggest city in the country, Ganja.