As EastFruit has repeatedly reported, it will be difficult for Uzbekistan to supply its population with potatoes in 2021/22. Despite serious government efforts to reduce dependence on potato imports, they continue to break records every year. We analyzed this in detail at the beginning of this year, explaining why Uzbekistan is unlikely to significantly reduce the relatively high domestic prices for potatoes.
However, the situation began to worsen after Russia and Belarus, apart from reducing areas planted with potatoes, faced unfavorable weather conditions for their cultivation. This led to a sharp rise in prices for potatoes during their harvesting and an increase in their imports both in Russia and Belarus.
Since Russia is usually one of the main suppliers of potatoes to Uzbekistan, Uzbek traders quickly turned their attention to importing from Iran and Pakistan, where they found a serious competitor – again Russia. As a result, wholesale prices for potatoes in Uzbekistan are now at a record level for this period – they are 36% higher than last year on the same date and more than double the level of prices in 2019.
However, the bad news doesn’t end there. It turns out that potatoes imported from Pakistan and Iran are often infected with dangerous pests that pose a potential threat not only to potato growers, but also to tomato, pepper and even melon growers.
On November 12, 2021, the Agency for Quarantine and Plant Protection of Uzbekistan issued a press release informing about the measures it has taken to protect the country’s potato and vegetable growing from dangerous quarantine pests – golden and pale nematodes (lat Globodera rostochiensis and Globodera pallida, respectively), which Uzbekistan frequently detected in imported potatoes from Iran and Pakistan in 2021.
It is reported that, 110 thousand tonnes of potatoes for consumption have been imported to Uzbekistan since August 2021, of which 104 thousand tonnes have certificates of compliance with phytosanitary requirements. At the same time, 3.5 thousand tonnes (3.2%) of potatoes were returned to the exporting country, 775 tonnes (0.7%) were destroyed at special facilities due to the impossibility of returning them t. Moreover, in accordance with the International Plant Protection Convention in 2021, the Agency sent complaints to Iran and Pakistan about violations of the phytosanitary requirements of Uzbekistan.
Thus, Uzbekistan found itself in a tough situation – there are not so many alternative suppliers of potatoes in the world, and the countries that can supply the required volumes are quite far away. This means that the already record-breaking expensive potatoes in Uzbekistan will cost even more, if supplies from Iran and Pakistan are banned.
Therefore, given the country’s need for potatoes, the agency decided not to go for a ban, but to negotiate with the quarantine services of Pakistan and Iran. As a result, it was decided that these countries will strengthen quarantine control and provide a list of potato producers in accordance with the phytosanitary requirements of Uzbekistan. The list is published on the agency’s website.
As a result of negotiations, no cases of nematode infestation in potato products imported from Pakistan from November 3 to 10, 2021 have been identified. This means that there is a progress and hope for the normalization of supplies and, most importantly, reducing the risks for the fruit and vegetable business in Uzbekistan.
Both types of nematodes are quarantined objects in Uzbekistan and the Eurasian Economic Union. So far, there are no effective chemical means of protection against them. In areas where pests are common up to 30 years old, potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, eggplant and melons should not be grown.
In addition, if nematodes are found in Uzbekistan, vegetable products from Uzbekistan, including greenhouse vegetables, which now bring multimillion-dollar revenues to the country’s producers, may be banned from export to Russia and other countries in the region. Thus, it is crucial for Uzbekistan to avoid this serious threat.
It should be noted that prices for potatoes in Uzbekistan have slightly decreased over the past week. This means the supplies were normalized.
According to the results of 9 months of 2021, Uzbekistan became the second largest sales market for potatoes from Iran, according to EastFruit. Iran exported 126.4 thousand tonnes of potatoes to Uzbekistan during this time – a record volume for supplies in this direction. The largest volumes of Iranian potatoes were sent to Afghanistan – more than 125 thousand tonnes. By the way, according to preliminary estimates, approximately the same volume of Iranian potatoes was exported to Russia as to Uzbekistan.
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