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Uzbekistan could sharply reduce the imports of potatoes in 2021

Uzbekistan could sharply reduce the imports of potatoes in 2021

Abril 20, 2021

In February EastFruit experts identified the main reasons for the sharp rise in potatos prices in Uzbekistan over the past few years, having analyzed trends in the production, import and consumption of potatoes for the period from 2000 to 2020.

A government document was signed in March – “On the effective use of existing land and the placement of crops for sowing for the 2021 harvest” requiring to increase the planted area of ​​potatoes by 29% compared to last year.

EastFruit analysts emphasize the dynamics of the cultivated area from 2019 to 2021 and believe that if no natural disasters occur and the yield indicator maintains at the previous levels, Uzbekistan’s need for potato imports will sharply decrease this year.

Sources: Decisions of the Cabinet of Ministers of Uzbekistan on various types of crops on agricultural land in 2019, 2020 and 2021.

According to the table, the increase in the planted area this year will be achieved by expanding potato fields on the main lands, and by planting on lands freed from early crops and wheat. The cultivated areas on these lands are increasing by 67%. Considering that the total area of ​​potato fields in 2020 decreased by 15% compared to the previous year, this year they will increase by only 10% compared to 2019, i.e., from 78 708 to 86 529 hectares.

Noteworthy is the sharp increase by 84.3% of the area of ​​potatoes intercropped in orchards and vineyards of which EastFruit analysts warned in their article, when the pressure of officials on farmers intensified. Nevertheless, they did not heed the advice of experts, and the area was dramatically expanded. However, in the general structure of potato areas, tuber areas intercropped occupy only insignificant 3.4%. And this is another argument against such unwise use of orchards and vineyards.

The overall increase of the area under potatoes in 2021 in Uzbekistan, according to officials, should be 29%.

Many have noticed that the planted area of potatoes is a “decision of the government”. The government decisions, if not backed up by material incentives, may not at all influence the real decisions of business in most other countries, but in Uzbekistan the situation is the opposite. Correlation exists and is noticeable. Moreover, according to market participants, real areas under potatoes often turn out to be larger than those announced in official decrees.

How will the expansion of the total area cultivated with potatoes affect the total volume of tuber production in Uzbekistan?

Based on the volume of potato production in previous years (according to the State Statistics Committee of Uzbekistan) and the forecast of maintaining the yield at the same levels, we can expect 3.73 million tons potato produced this year.

The average yield in the table above is calculated by dividing production by the total area for potato planting indicated in government crop placement plans. In fact, the total area planted with potatoes is larger due to household plots of the population in rural areas, where potatoes are also grown for personal use and for sale in local markets.

EastFruit believes that the volumes of production at these sites are accounted for in the reports of the State Statistics Committee, while their areas are not accounted for (or partially accounted for) in government documents.

In February, EastFruit analysts predicted that:
"… to ensure price stability, the annual increase in potato supply in the domestic market (production + imports) should be 5.5-6.5%. The forecast volume of supply in the domestic potato market of Uzbekistan, a balancing demand, is 3.63-3.67 million tons this year."
In other words, in order to ensure price stability (without sharp fluctuations) in the potato market this year, the volume of its supply in the domestic market of Uzbekistan should be 3.63-3.67 million tons.

The projected volume of potato production this year, taking into account plans to increase the cultivated area, is 3.73 million tons (see table above). All other things being equal, this means a sharp decline in the volume of imported potatoes in 2020.

The imperfection of the infrastructure for storing potatoes in Uzbekistan should be taken into account, from technologies for growing tubers for long-term storage to the quality and availability of specialized potato storage facilities with temperature and humidity control. However, given the increase in potato losses during storage, Uzbekistan’s import needs may still significantly decrease.

For reference: according to FAOSTAT, the volume of potato imports to Uzbekistan began to grow sharply over the past few years. 55.9 thousand tons were imported in 2016, and in 2017-2020 the import increased from 216 thousand to 300 thousand tons per year. The main volumes of potatoes are imported to Uzbekistan from Russia, Kazakhstan and Pakistan.
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