Uzbekistan – why the population does not support the course on the export of fruits and vegetables?


Uzbekistan – why the population does not support the course on the export of fruits and vegetables?

06/03/2020

From 2011-12, entire areas began to be transferred from the cultivation of cotton and grain to the cultivation of fruits and vegetables on an administrative command basis

EastFruit regularly writes about new export achievements of Uzbekistan in the fruit and vegetable segment: the opening of new markets for Uzbek fruits and vegetables, liberalization of trade rules, support for export initiatives, investment in infrastructure, etc. This would seem to undoubtedly bring great benefits to the country, but a significant part of the population is completely not happy with such successes.

In comments on materials on new export records, as well as on social networks, negative statements by people who believe that export development makes vegetables and fruits inaccessible to local consumers prevail.

“What is the use of these millions (export earnings, eds.) Of the common people ?!”, the reader, who signed as Ikram, is indignant. “I also have never eaten sweet cherries this year,” writes Zafar. “In the bazaar, cherries are more expensive than bananas! Why can’t you fill your market and then sell the surplus abroad ?! Everything is for sale, but we will manage! ”, Another reader is indignant. There are less diplomatic statements and even wishes for those who “profit from the export of cherries.”

This indignation can be understood, because only very recently Uzbekistan began to introduce the foundations of a market economy after about 90 years of living in the realities of a command economy and manual control of all processes in the country. The export of fruits and vegetables was maximally complicated and manually regulated to make prices affordable for the local population, and the production of fruits and vegetables remained the lot of households. On a commercial scale, production was tightly regulated from above, and began to develop only from 2011-12, when entire areas began to be transferred from the cultivation of cotton and grain to the cultivation of fruits and vegetables in an administrative-command order.

Naturally, 90 years of propaganda about how the state cares about the availability of products for the population, even though such care led to constant shortages of different types of goods, could not pass without a trace. The level of basic economic knowledge of the population is at an extremely low level, and Uzbekistan will need a lot of time and effort to explain the sharp reversal of economic policy.

It is quite natural that people will pay attention to a 30-50% price increase much more willingly than to admit that their income has doubled. Moreover, in most cases, they cannot connect these two factors.

“The development of the export of fruits and vegetables allows residents of the countryside to raise living standards and expand production, creating a large number of well-paid jobs. It also ensures the stability of the national currency due to the influx of export earnings. It is access to export markets that gives Uzbekistan the opportunity to introduce more modern and effective technologies for growing, processing and packaging fruits, which reduce costs, improve the quality and safety of products. Export creates opportunities for expanding the assortment and season of growing and selling different types of products, as well as for more sustainable production. Thus, the consumer can be sure that the assortment of fruits and vegetables will always be the widest, and over time, these products will become more and more accessible as more modern approaches are introduced, ”says Andrei Yarmak, economist at the Investment Department of the Food and Agriculture Organization United Nations (FAO).

“When I first visited Uzbekistan in 2012, I saw that an apple costs $ 3 per kg in the winter-spring period, the assortment and quality of vegetables are disgustingly low, and prices are going wild. In the season, those who grew fruits, as a rule, sold them at bargain prices, because the export was complicated, and the quality of these fruits remained critically low, so they would not have been bought in other countries. I was particularly struck by the example of a farmer growing early cabbage, which he harvested in March. At this time, the export of cabbage was generally banned in order to saturate the domestic market. Therefore, the farmer was forced to build an expensive refrigerator to store early cabbage until they were allowed to export! This is an absolutely incredible waste, because he was forced to sell cabbage later, when the price was already falling, therefore both the state and the farmer lost about 70% of potential revenue, ”the expert notes.

See also: Air deliveries of fruits and vegetables from Ferghana airport (Uzbekistan) began

He also draws attention to the changes that have occurred since 2012. “Compared to 2012, the assortment of fruits and vegetables in the country has grown many times, the quality of the same cherries, apricots, tomatoes or onions has reached a sufficient level to export these goods not only to Russia, but also to countries that are demanding on quality, such as China , South Korea or the European Union. Accordingly, only a small part of the cultivated fruits and vegetables is exported, and consumers undoubtedly already have wider access to a huge assortment of fresh vegetables, fruits and high-quality berries almost all year round, ”says Andrei Yarmak.

Naturally, a better product costs more. However, the incomes of the population who grow these products, as well as a huge number of people involved in the processes of trade and the provision of all processes of cultivation, processing, storage, packaging, processing, etc. fruit and vegetable production soared. Accordingly, these people can afford to pay more for a better product.

There is a very good saying, “Do not be afraid of high costs – be afraid of low incomes.” Therefore, if the state forces the farmer to grow products at a loss, he will stop growing them and then the prices will be even higher than in a situation where the products are exported. Everyone will lose from this – both the farmer, and the state, and the consumer.

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