Farmers in southern Kyrgyzstan, despite a reasonable harvest, are struggling to make ends meet as they cannot sell their vegetables across borders closed after the worst violence in the country's modern history.
Potatoes have rotted in the fields around Osh, epicentre of the savage ethnic clashes that killed nearly 400 people in June, while the next grain crop could be harmed by farmers' inability to import fertilisers, officials told Reuters.
"We grew 20,000 tonnes of potatoes and couldn't sell them," said Shavkatbek Sabirov, head of the agricultural collective in Aravan, a village of about 100 people outside Osh.
"This has cost us 250 million som ($5.4 million)."
The interim government of Kyrgyzstan, an impoverished Central Asian state hosting Russian and U.S. military air bases, expects the economy to shrink by 5 percent this year after the violence, which left thousands of people homeless in the south.
The Agriculture Ministry expects a 2010 grain crop of around 870,000 tonnes, close to the average for the last few years. By comparison, northern neighbour Kazakhstan expects to harvest between 13.5 million and 14.5 million tonnes of grain this year.
Moris Alimbekov, head of the crop science department in Kyrgyzstan's Agriculture Ministry, said the violence would lead to a decline in production of some crops. But a bigger problem, he said, was the closure of the border with Kazakhstan.
"This has really hit supplies of food products from the south of the country," he said. Kazakhstan has reopened some border posts, but applies tight controls on goods shipments.
"Uzbekistan has completely closed its border and torn up agreements on fertiliser supply indefinitely," Alimbekov said. "There was some cross-border trade, but there isn't any more."
Aravan is like many other regions of southern Kyrgyzstan. Irrigation canals through the Ferghana valley where the country meets with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan ensured a reasonable early crop this year, mainly potatoes, cucumbers and other vegetables.
But around a quarter of the village's potato crop rotted after farmers were unable to find buyers, Paizullo Mirzabaramov, head of the Aravan regional administration, told Reuters.
Farmers found some buyers locally, but prices were far below those achieved last year, when the majority of the region's vegetables were exported to southern Kazakhstan, he said.
Aravan's population, two-thirds ethnic Uzbek, was relatively unscathed by the June violence, although many of the 400,000 people who fled at the height of the clashes crossed the region.
About a quarter of these refugees crossed into Uzbekistan before the border was closed.
Now, the absence of fertiliser imports has led locals to worry about the year's second crop, comprising mainly sunseeds, maize and feed grains.
Kyrgyzstan's interim government has said it will provide for the country's food security, and that part of the $1.1 billion pledged by international donors in July would be devoted to agriculture.
"Winter is coming soon. We need to feed our children," said Mirzabaramov.
ReutersLast Mod: 24 Ağustos 2010, 17:30