Uzbekistan, the Central Asian country has started focusing on production of finished textile goods rather than of raw cotton. It is slowly trying to transition away from its traditional strength of cotton farming going on for generations. As, cotton farming requires a huge amount of water, a great difficulty for dry Uzbekistan.
Though the Uzbek economic picture has evolved, cotton remains key crop. Last year, the area planted under crops in Uzbekistan totalled almost 3.6m ha for which cotton occupied 1.3m ha, about 36%.
At the X International Uzbek Cotton and Textile Fair, held in Tashkent October 13-14, Uzbekistan signed deals to deliver 580,000 tonnes of cotton. That will translate into about US $958m (2.3 trillion UZS) in export revenues, compared to almost US $1.1 billion (2.6 trillion UZS) last year.
The downward trend reflects a deliberate turning away from exports of unprocessed cotton. For the first time ever, contracts for finished textiles yielded higher revenue â€“ US $1 billion (2.4 trillion UZS) â€“ than did the raw-cotton contracts.
Cotton processing is more profitable than growing cotton, said Sanjar Elmuradov, spokesman for the state-owned textile firm Uzbekengilsanoatd. Moreover, developing the textile industry will create jobs and attracts investment too.
The percentage of the cotton crop processed inside Uzbekistan has grown to 44% from 7% since Uzbekistan gained independence in 1991. The government plans to increase that number to 70% by 2020 and is allocating US $1 billion (2.4 trillion UZS) to help realise that goal.
But Uzbekistan will continue with cotton farming more efficiently, not give up altogether. It's using new combines and genetically engineering new strains of cotton.
By 2016, about 85% of the crop will be harvested by modern equipment, Agriculture and Water Resources Ministry spokesman Abdugani Muzaffarov said. The country plans to increase the number of combines in the future. This year about 1,000 combines are working in the fields. Next year the government plans to send 3,000 more combines into the fields.
Uzbekistan is making progress in the laboratory too. At the international market in Tashkent, Uzbek scientists demonstrated a new achievement â€“ a cotton "gene knockout" that would enable higher yields and quality of cotton fibre. The achievement won recognition from ICAC. The new varieties are expected to be planted next year.
According to the International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC), Uzbekistan ranks as the world's fifth leading cotton exporter and sixth leading cotton producer.
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