Shortfall in Tajikistan’s cotton harvest

Projections of this year’s cotton harvest by Tajikistan's Ministry of Agriculture turned out to be overly optimistic, with only ten of the country's thirty-two cotton-growing regions meeting their targets.

Siyavush Mekhtan

2009-12-03

DUSHANBE — This year's cotton harvest in Tajikistan has fallen short of projections. At the start of the year, Ministry of Agriculture specialists confidently predicted the country's 175,000 hectares sown to the crop would yield 350,000 tonnes of cotton. The actual harvest fell short of that by 55,000 tonnes, or 16 percent less than projected, with only 10 of the country's 32 cotton-growing regions meeting their targets this year.

Agricultural specialist Anvar Suleyman asserted it was time for the country's leadership to heed the advice of experts calling for a 50 percent reduction in land sown to cotton, because soil degradation in some cotton-producing areas dropped yields to less than 14 centners (100kg) per hectare. Yields below 20 centners per hectare are considered to be under the profitability threshold.

Nine months of the year are spent growing cotton. Developing Tajik cotton production to its maximum potential would require an average increase in yield to 30 centners per hectare and an investment of US$400 million more, in the industry for which funding from abroad is unlikely due to the financial crisis and the global drop in demand for processed cotton.

Many farmers are still unable to sell the remainder of last year's harvest, which totalled 380,000 tonnes nationwide. Selling it at current prices will not even cover their production expenses.

Data released by the State Statistics Committee of Tajikistan show that processed cotton exports between January and October 2009 totalled 63,900 tonnes worth $68.8 million, or 3,000 tonnes and $20.7 million less than last year. The average price of processed cotton during this period was $1076 per tonne, or $260 less than during the same period in 2008.

According to Tajik Agriculture Minister Kasym Kasymov, the government has drawn up and approved plans through 2015 to develop the cotton-growing industry, with reductions in the area sown to the crop and higher yields from new varieties. However sensible the programme looks on paper, it will remain just a plan until the funding to implement it has been secured.

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