Uzbekistan Agriculture: Reforms pave way for rapid growth

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Important sector. Agriculture accounts for 19% of GDP and 27% of the workforce in Uzbekistan. The sector has been growing at some 6-7% (official figures) per year for the past decade or so.
Large market, strategic position. Uzbekistan has a population of 30 million, the largest in the region, and, as it moves out of isolation, may develop aspirations to become a regional leader in Central Asia.
Mirziyoyev’s reforms are the new locomotive. The wider reforms taking place in Uzbekistan, instigated by President Mirziyoyev should benefit agriculture, open up new markets and promote more efficient land use.
Agricultural reforms announced in October 2017. These reforms aim to improve the rights and protect the interests of farmers and landowners and include measures to aid the development of commercial and household farms. The government also said that, by 2022, it will take control of all agricultural land that is unused or being used inefficiently.
New markets opening. The new “detente” with neighboring countries will improve market access for food exporters. Currently, less than 10% of agricultural output is exported and there is much scope for growth.
Cotton still important, but declining. Uzbekistan is the world’s seventh-largest producer of cotton and the fifth-largest exporter. But the government is actively encouraging the cultivation of other crops and the share of overall production held by cotton is gently but steadily decreasing. The “slave labor” issue is being tackled.
Moving from wheat/cotton to fruit and veg. In 2016, fruit and vegetables accounted for around 50% of the country’s crop by value. Fruit & veg production is more profitable, consumes fewer resources and has bright export prospects.
Larger crop producers. There has been a steady move towards larger-scale production of crops. However, meat and dairy are still largely in the hands of millions of small producers.
Major wheat importer. Despite the progress made in wheat production, the country still imports about 20% of consumption.
Foreign funding returning. The World Bank has allocated US$500 mln for Uzbekistan to develop the fruit and vegetable sector. EBRD has now restarted its project pipeline, after an eight-year gap. Other agencies are also providing finance and advice.