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Horticulture of Tajikistan 2020: superfoods, disappointments, and price peaks

The EastFruit team sums up the results of 2020 for one of the most interesting countries regarding the prospects for developing the fruit and vegetable business – Tajikistan. The year was very unusual: unprecedented price fluctuations, unpredictable logistics, closed borders even for goods, and unusual weather conditions created many problems for farmers and other market participants. Moreover, all these factors caused losses, which means there was less money for further development.

No surprise that in 2020 the article “Why does a Tajik farmer sleep only in winter and even then not everyone?” enjoyed such a warm response. This article tells our readers about a Tajik farmer’s typical yet incredible work schedule throughout the year’s seasons.

The news of the critically low prices for lemons in Tajikistan and their low demand at the beginning of the last year was very typical for 2020. However, when the COVID-19 pandemic began, the prices for lemons skyrocketed. Such price swings, influenced by many factors, including unexpected and unconfirmed rumours, happened very often in 2020.

Bakhtiyor Abduvohidov, a consultant to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), analyses the results of 2020: “For the fruit and vegetable business in Tajikistan, I would describe the past year as difficult, full of challenges, and lack of guidelines. Businesses operating as before lost more than they found because competition intensified. However, those who brought something new to business and technology – new types of products, cultivation in the closed ground, new varieties, new sales markets – continue working. Investors who had never worked in this sector before started to invest in agribusiness. It has both pros and cons since there are no specialists in new technologies, but people learn. I think there will be more new projects in 2021 that we will hear about.” 

Tajikistan has excellent climatic conditions for growing a wide range of vegetables and fruits, many promising microzones, access to high-quality water for irrigation, and thousand-year traditions of viticulture, vegetable growing, and fruit growing. This country grows and consumes many unique products with excellent properties and has hard-working people. However, the country’s investment climate is criticised even by local investors, limiting these vast prospects’ realisation.

One more trendy article of 2020 – “Why are Tajik farmers disappointed with intensive apple orchards?” – confirms Bakhtiyor’s words. It’s hard not to disappoint when you spent a lot of money on seedlings and other technology and you get a harvest 5-6 times lower than promised. After all, many farmers saw with their own eyes that you could get much more from an intensive orchard! Since EastFruit raised this topic, we had to explain the reasons for the problems. Our article on the top 10 mistakes in planning intensive apple orchards, typical for all Central Asian countries, was even more read and discussed. Many apple producers contacted us with requests for advice from intensive farming consultants.

It is interesting that officials also contributed to the decline of fruit growing efficiency using modern intensive horticultural technologies. We have repeatedly received complaints from Tajikistan and Uzbekistan farmers that officials were forcing them to plant potatoes and vegetables in the aisles of modern gardens, so we explained why such orders are criminal stupidity.

It is possible to get late apple varieties very early in Central Asia, which is a significant export opportunity! For example, apples of the Golden Delicious variety, which in Ukraine usually ripens in mid-September, appeared on the market in Tajikistan at the end of July! It turns out that regional producers have about a month of carte blanche in the export of late varieties. Besides, they can sell apples at high prices, and there is no need to build an expensive storage infrastructure. 

Speaking of apples in Tajikistan, throughout the season, producers were talking about low harvest and expected high prices, but at the end of the year, apple prices remained low. So far, no one can say for sure if they will rise.

Another very typical story for 2020 was the story of cheap persimmon in Tajikistan. When farmers got rid of persimmons literally for a penny and at their own expense, the Japanese scientists helped. Or, more precisely, the Tajik media, who misinterpreted their study on the effect of tannins in persimmon on the coronavirus. Accordingly, many consumers decided that persimmon was a cure for coronavirus, and persimmon prices in Tajikistan quickly skyrocketed, as the stocks were extremely low.

In the summer, Tajik farmers suffered losses due to border closures and difficulties while transporting goods outside the country. As a result, the unprecedentedly cheap vegetables and fruits delighted consumers but struck farmers. Onions were incredibly cheap, so were other vegetables and fruits. It led to an increased volume of dried vegetables and fruits; therefore, the supply of this category of goods may grow.

Tajik consumers had a fondness for citrus fruits in 2020 due to their high content of vitamin C. Therefore, Pakistani mandarin was in high demand in the Tajik market, due to its low price.

One of the unexpected news was the success of the kiwi fruit in the Tajik market. It is already so popular in Tajikistan that many farmers are thinking about growing it. Why not? The climate allows, the cultivation technologies are similar to the technology of growing grapes (traditional for the country), and in neighbouring Uzbekistan, there is already the first kiwi orchards bearing fruit.

The most pleasant news of 2020 was the news about real superfoods found in Tajikistan. This news attracted the attention of the international community to this country. Who knows, maybe the American Whole Foods Market will one day have a Tajik fruit and vegetable superfood department? Although you can even start with Moscow, especially since many ethnic Tajiks are living there. Here are links to our articles about unique vegetables and fruits of Tajikistan:

Many people watched the video about the gura fruit on our Youtube channel. Don’t forget to subscribe, so you don’t miss out on new videos.

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