On July 4, President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev held a meeting to discuss issues related to deep processing of agricultural goods and improving the quality of food products.
In our country, 20 million tons of fruits and vegetables are grown annually. However, as little as 15 percent of this volume is processed at the industrial level, of which 7-8 percent are exported. Due to the underdeveloped infrastructure, the loss of products in the process of collection and storage reaches 30 percent.
Further development of the food industry and boost in exports can be achieved through the rational use of existing opportunities and the expansion of deep processing of products.
The President stressed that for this it is essential, first of all, to increase the number of modern agro-logistics centers, covering the processes of collection, transportation, storage, processing, packaging and export of agricultural products.
Today, there are 31 agro-logistics centers and 1.5 thousand refrigerated warehouses in Uzbekistan. The capacity of such venues allows for storing only 4.5 percent of the total volume of grown fruits and vegetables. This, of course, is a very small indicator.
Shavkat Mirziyoyev pointed out the need to ensure stable prices for food products and create a wide-ranging infrastructure for the uninterrupted supplies of the market.
The challenge is to swell, by 2025, the number of refrigerated warehouses to 4.5 thousand, of agro-logistics centers – to 140. The head of our state urged to organize such centers in the Andijan, Samarkand and Tashkent regions with the use of concessional loan from the Asian Development Bank. The President insisted that similar efforts be started in the Jizzakh, Surkhandarya and Ferghana regions.
Among other drawbacks pointed out at the meeting was the lack of cooperative ties between the suppliers of goods and processing enterprises.
For example, 65 percent of fruits and vegetables, 93-95 percent of meat and dairy products are harvested in dehkan farms and in household plots. However, the capacity of processing enterprises is 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. Owing to this, first, incomes of the population will increase, and secondly, uninterrupted supply of crudes to industry will be ensured,” the President said.
To cite one more example, the seeds of grapes, melons, watermelons, pumpkins and pomegranates are usually not used in our country. Abroad, they are processed and rare goods are produced. In particular, one kilogram of watermelon seed oil costs 28 US dollars, that of pomegranate seeds – $ 350. If in our country we can organize the collection and processing of seeds, it will be possible to produce export-oriented goods worth $ 250 million a year.
The Ministry of Agriculture, the State Committee for Veterinary and Livestock Development, the Ministry of Economy and Industry were tasked with organizing at least five agricultural cooperatives in each district and providing them with financial support.
The transition of agricultural enterprises to the payment of value added tax will contribute to the development of production and wholesale trade, as well as the enhancement of cooperation, as noted at the meeting.
The quality of food products and their competitiveness in the external market also depend on qualified laboratory testing. It was underscored that much needs to be done in this area. Only 100 out of 775 international standards for food testing meet the requirements of the World Trade Organization, while only 10 of more than 100 laboratories operating in Uzbekistan have international accreditation. All this prevents our export enterprises, as well as quality control of imported goods.
In this regard, the Uzstandard Agency, the Ministry of Health and relevant inspections were instructed to bring the number of implemented food quality standards to 500 and set up laboratories capable of carrying out the entire range of inspections.
The President noted the need to accelerate the development of agribusiness, elaborate mega-projects in agriculture that would contribute to enhancing food security.
On the issues discussed at the meeting, responsible officials put forward their opinions and proposals.