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The land

The country is mostly flat (two-thirds) desert or steppe, with mountains in the east. The richest farmlands are in the gaps in the mountains (Ferghana Valley).

Agricultural Sector

The principal crop is cotton (world’s fifth-largest producer and second-largest exporter). Over 4 million ha is under irrigation (all crops). Water (over-use) is mainly directed at cotton growing in arid and semi-arid areas, resulting in considerable water depletion, degradation of soil (high salinity), and heavy use of herbicides. The combination of these factors produced negative conditions, like the shrinking of the Aral Sea, severe health hazards affecting rural populations, the destruction of lesser crops, etc. Cultivation of wheat is on the increase in less fertile plains, but meeting only 30% of the country’s requirements. Fruits, vegetables, rice (self-sufficiency was achieved) and silkworm production complete the pattern.

The current trend is aimed at gradually privatizing the agricultural sector, reducing dependency on cotton and achieving self-sufficiency in food. Attempts to become self-sufficient in grain through the increase of area sown did not live up to expectations and as result necessitated expensive and unforeseen grain imports

Moreover, the agricultural sector reforms are undermined by a ban on private land ownership; with the state farms still remaining collectivized and state serving. The sector is also held back by shortages of machinery, fuel and the exodus of foreign technicians and skilled workers.

Seed Sector

Similarly to other agricultural aspects, the seed sector is based on the principle of centrally planned management. The Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources, through appropriate institutes/committees, exercises full control over crop breeding research, seed multiplication, production, quality control, processing, marketing, distribution and extension. The Ministry grants production licences to select, government-controlled farms connected with state breeding institutes (Scientific Agricultural Institutes).

On the whole, limited cash flow, poor liquidity and no access to affordable credit prevent farmers from investing in inputs (fertilizers, pesticides, spare parts, etc.). Moreover, the prohibitive cost of quality seed forces farmers to use poor quality seed saved from previous harvests. Repetition of this over a period of several years contributes to reduced yield and promotes inferior seed quality.

Research (with an extremely limited national budget) is mainly directed at cotton. Uzbekistan has not adhered to any of the international seed schemes or conventions. Two seed laws (a general one and one on selection) were passed in August 1996, and a decree on seed production was issued in 1998. In practice, it seems that these legislative actions have little bearing on the sector.

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