After hope was lost for entire crops of apricots and sweet cherries in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan due to abnormally warm weather causing early flowering in orchards this winter, EastFruit experts now draw attention to another looming threat – the high probability of losing a significant part of early potato crops.
In Tajikistan, farmers planted early potatoes up until the eve of the Feast of Sada holiday (January 30, 2021), after which abnormally warm weather was established in the country. This warm front contributed to the active germination of potatoes.
The sown area for the 2021 harvest has expanded significantly due to the high level of prices for marketable potatoes, according to EastFruit experts. In turn, this provoked an even more significant rise in prices for marketable potatoes because they were also heavily used for seed this year. There are no exact figures on how much the area has expanded, but market operators state it in terms of thousands of hectares.
Landowners and tenants say that local officials actively encouraged residents of Tajikistan to expand the area under potatoes and rushed them to plant early in the hope that it would reduce potato prices once the harvest enters the market. Local media also regularly reported on the success of planting potatoes.
Unfortunately, weather forecasts say frosts are expected in central Tajikistan today and, on Friday night, temperatures may reach minus 10 degrees Celsius and remain below zero even during the day. Also, frosts can last 5-6 days. If these forecasts are correct, then the harvest of early potatoes could be completely destroyed.
Agronomists say it is possible to partially save the potato harvest in Tajikistan with abundant watering and covering entire plantations with agro-fibre. Nevertheless, it is obvious that not everyone has sufficient quantities of covering materials available to protect all areas of potatoes. The likelihood of at least a partial loss of yield is quite high.
Previously, the Minister of Agriculture of Tajikistan Sulaimon Ziyozoda announced in his report about the forecasts of record growth in areas: “In 2021, we intend to increase the area under potatoes to over 71,000 hectares.” In 2020, potatoes in Tajikistan were harvested from more than 54,000 hectares so the expected expansion of the area is nearly a third.
As potato prices are already high, any partial loss of early potato yields could spike prices for this socially important commodity. Since potatoes in Tajikistan are considered “second bread,” such a loss would be extremely undesirable for everyone. Additionally, this season’s prices for potatoes in Russia, from where the products could be imported, are quite high. At the moment, the prices for Russian potatoes continue to grow. Potato prices in Uzbekistan are also at a historically high level so supplies from Uzbekistan should not be expected either. Potato supplies from Pakistan can partially relieve tension from the market, but the influence of this factor has been practically exhausted. Therefore, we can only hope that the weather forecasts turn out to be incorrect.
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