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Uzbekistan May Lose its Key Export Market for Fruit & Vegetables

Tuesday 27 March 2012

(uznews.net) – Russia is claiming that a possible ban on plant products from Uzbekistan is the fault of Uzbek exporters who are failing to ensure the quality of exported fruit and vegetables.

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Last year, Uzbekistan for the first time ever entered the group of top-three suppliers of fruits to Russia and outstripped such countries as Poland, China, Spain, Argentina, Morocco, South Africa and Italy. Uzbekistan’s fruit export value amounted to $300 mln and showed a year-on-year growth of 47%.
In the season 2009/10 Uzbekistan was just the sixth major supplier of fruits to the Russian Federation. Stone fruits (sweet and sour cherries, peaches etc.), table grapes, melons and watermelons were the most important categories of Uzbekistan’s fruit exports to Russia. They altogether accounted for 75% of overall export volume. As to dried fruit exports to Russia, they were actively developing too.

Last year Uzbekistan became a lead supplier of horticultural goods and dried fruits to the Russian market after Russia banned the import of vegetables from the European Union on 2nd June 2011.

According to the Committee on Agrarian and Horticultural Issues of the lower house of Parliament in Uzbekistan, the Oliy Mazhlis, the decision was taken at the time in Tashkent to simplify procedures for licensing producers of these goods and certifying products for export. Thanks to the new measures, Uzbek exporters of fruit, dried fruit and vegetables to Russia increased their turnover significantly. Exports of these goods totalled 200,000 tonnes in 2010, generating revenues of US $300 million, and experts believe these figures increased in 2011 to 270,000 tonnes and $400 million.

However, according to the Rossiyskaya Gazeta, quoting the Uzbek economist Rashid Keramov, this policy may have led to the uncontrolled growth in supply of poor quality goods to Russia. The Russians certainly believe this to be the case.

A potential ban on dried fruit imports into Russia from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Azerbaijan was announced on 20th March in a press release issued by Russia’s Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance (Rosselkhoznadzor).

The press release specifies that “from 2011 to the present, there were nine cases of quarantined objects entering Russian from Azerbaijan, 130 instances of such objects arriving from Uzbekistan and 228 from Tajikistan”. These quarantined objects were found in commercial batches of goods and in passengers’ hand luggage.

Rosselkhoznadzor reported each case of quarantine infringement to the national organisations for quarantine and plant protection in the relevant countries to ensure that they took the necessary steps to prevent such goods reaching Russia.

Aleksi Alekseenko, a spokesman for Rosselkhoznadzor, explained to Uznews.net what the “quarantined goods” were:

These are living organisms, that is, the various types of insects which are commonly found in Central Asia. In particular, the most dangerous for us is the khapra beetle which destroys grain crops. They are also linked to other plant diseases.

According to Mr Alekseenko, some Uzbek goods, mainly dried fruits and nuts, can occasionally contain these unwanted disease carriers and therefore if steps are not taken by relevant Uzbek agencies then imports of such goods will be stopped.

This is particularly topical because in early March, Gennady Onishchenko, Russia’s Chief Public Health Adviser, declared that Russia is considering lifting the ban on similar products from EU countries, which would therefore reduce in any case the demand for goods imported from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Azerbaijan.

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