Business is built around the extraction of oil and natural gas. Since the middle of the 19th century, when the oil was found and an oil industry was built up with the help of foreign investment, i.e. by the Nobel and Rothschild families, this commodity has had its mark on Azerbaijan’s economic and social development. During the Russian and Soviet periods, oil was an important export and income source, especially during the international oil crises of the 1970s, when the longevity of the stagnant Soviet planning economy could be extended through large oil revenues.
After independence, the supply of oil and natural gas has once again made Azerbaijan interesting for the regional powers of the Russian Federation, Turkey and Iran as well as for international oil companies. Since the oil industry has always been largely run overseas, and the labor force and technological-industrial level of education among Azerbaijanis have been low, this industry will probably continue to be heavily dependent on foreign stakeholders. The great dependence of the oil industry has made the country sensitive to international price changes. To reduce this dependence, the country, together with the IMF and the World Bank, has built up an oil fund to promote investment outside the oil industry.
The conditions for agriculture and livestock are good, especially on the plain around the Kura River and along the coast towards the Caspian Sea. However, the low rainfall means that arable farming requires irrigation, and it is estimated that about three quarters of the area is irrigated in this way. Cereals, rice, fruits, tea, tobacco and cotton dominate agricultural production.
Minerals and energy
Azerbaijan is rich in minerals as well as oil and natural gas. The oil, found in the mid-19th century, has long dominated the country’s economy. Oil and natural gas are mainly extracted in the Caspian Sea. Exploration in the area shows that there are large deposits of natural gas, but that the oil reserves are smaller than previously thought. Due to the country’s location, the oil industry has difficulty reaching the oil to the users in Western Europe. Wires go from Baku to various oil ports in the Black Sea.
Iron, copper and molybdenum are mined in Azerbaijan, as are the minerals alunite, sulfur chisel and rock salt. Most of the mineral production takes place in the Apsjeron region.
Most of Azerbaijan’s industry is linked to the extraction and processing of oil, natural gas and minerals. There are also elements of the textile, food and consumer goods industry and diamond grinding. In the past, large parts of the industry were organized for military production, but during the 00s it was gradually restructured for civilian production. The most important industrial areas are found in the Apsjeron region, mainly around Baku and Sumgait, and around the cities of Geoktjaj and Gjandzja.
According to Countryaah, Azerbaijan’s trade with the outside world during the 1800s and 1900s has been strongly oriented to other parts of Russia and the Soviet Union, especially to the South Caucasian neighboring republics of Armenia and Georgia, which have received most of the oil and energy from Azerbaijan. Since independence, the Russian Federation, Turkey, the United States and Italy have been the most important trading partners, while trade with Armenia and Georgia has decreased in importance. Azerbaijan exports are dominated by oil and natural gas but also include machinery, diamonds and food. Imports mainly consist of machinery, oil products and food.