On 4 July 2019, President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev held a meeting on deep processing of agricultural products and improving the quality of food products.
Over 20 million tonnes of fruits and vegetables are grown per year in Uzbekistan. However, only 15 percent of this volume is processed at the industrial level, of which 7-8 percent is exported. Due to underdeveloped infrastructure, the loss of products in collection and storage reaches 30 percent.
Further development of food industry and increasing the volume of export can be achieved through rational use of existing opportunities and expansion of deep processing of products.
The Head of the state noted that for this purpose it is necessary, first of all, to increase the number of modern agricultural centers covering the process of collection, transportation, storage, processing, packaging and export of agricultural products.
There are 31 agro logistics centers and 1.5 thousand refrigerated warehouses in Uzbekistan. The capacity of such warehouses allows storing only 4.5 percent of total volume of fruits and vegetables. This, of course, is very little.
Shavkat Mirziyoyev noted the need for ensuring stable food prices and creating widely branched infrastructure for uninterrupted saturation of market.
The task was set to increase the number of refrigerated warehouses up to 4.5 thousand, agro logistics centers up to 140 by 2025. Instructions were given on organizing such centers in Andijan, Samarkand and Tashkent regions with the use of a concessional loan from Asian Development Bank and beginning corresponding work in Jizzakh, Surkhandarya and Fergana regions.
The lack of cooperation between producers and processing enterprises was noted at the meeting.
For example, 65 percent of fruits and vegetables, 93-95 percent of meat and dairy products are harvested in dehkan farms and homestead lands. However, the capacity of processing enterprises is loaded by 50-60 percent. Last year, only 19 percent of fruits and vegetables and 16 percent of meat and dairy products were industrially processed.
“Cooperation is the most effective means of attracting agricultural products grown by the population for industrial processing. Due to this, firstly, the income of the population will increase, and secondly, uninterrupted supply of raw materials to industry will be provided”, said the President.
There is another example. Grape, melon, watermelon, pumpkin and pomegranate seeds are not usually used in Uzbekistan. They are processed and rare products are produced abroad. In particular, one kilogram of oil from watermelon seeds costs 28, from pomegranate seeds US$350. If we establish the collection and processing of seeds, it will be possible to produce export-oriented products in the amount of US$250 million a year.
The Ministry of Agriculture, the State Committee for Veterinary and Livestock Development, the Ministry of Economy and Industry have been tasked with organizing at least five agricultural cooperatives in each district and providing them with financial support.
As it was noted at the meeting, transition of agricultural enterprises to payment of value added tax will contribute to development of production and wholesale trade, as well as expansion of cooperation.
The quality of food products and their competitiveness in external market also depend on qualified laboratory testing. It was noted that there is still a lot to be done in this sphere. The President criticized the fact that only 100 out of 775 international standards for testing food products that meet the requirements of the World Trade Organization, as well as 10 out of more than 100 operating laboratories have international accreditation in Uzbekistan. All this hinders effective export of products, as well as, quality control of imported goods.
In this regard, Uzstandard Agency, the Ministry of Health and relevant inspections were instructed to bring the number of implemented standards for food quality to 500 and organize laboratories capable of carrying out the entire range of inspections.
The need for accelerating development of agricultural industry, development of mega projects in agriculture, contributing to strengthening of food security, was noted.
Opinions and proposals of responsible officials were heard on the issues discussed at the meeting.