Uzbekistan: Government control over agriculture allowed for a record grain crop
Uzbek farmers harvested 6.25 million tons of grain this year. Impressed by the all-time high record, President Islam Karimov sent his personal greetings to farmers - just like Soviet leaders of the past. Not all farmers in the meantime take pride in the accomplishment. Total government control does not leave Uzbek farmers any choice in what is to be cultivated.
Judging by the Uzbek media, the yield averaged 11.9 centners per hectare in 1991, 25.5 in 2000, 36.7 in 2002, 43.9 in 2005, and 48 in 2007.
Uzbek farms accounted for 27.2% of all crops in 1991, almost 56% in 2002, and 100% this year.
Commenting on this year record crop, media outlets point out that practically all dekhkans or peasants chose different crops to seed their land plots with in the past. It resulted in delays with plowing for the next harvesting campaign. Farmers were ordered to abandon this practice this year. They were explained that the land should be plowed again immediately upon harvesting and left alone to give it time to recover. Scientists in the employ of the government and local "specialists" claim that it will improve crop yield by 5-6 centners the following year. It is therefore more generally rewarding than immediate sowing.
"Responsibility for one's land and crop, for the future of Uzbekistan where everything has been done to enable people to realize their potential helps most farmers to come up with record crops," commentary in Akhborot TV program ran.
Farmers disagree with this assumption. It is common knowledge that they harvest so as to start planting other crops immediately. Once they are through with grain, they cultivate rice, corn, beans, vegetables, and so on. Selling this second crop, they replenish their own budget and fill bazaars and marketplaces.
Observers comment that vegetables are more expensive in Uzbek bazaars this year. They ascribe it to several reasons including total transition to individual farming. Collective farms of the past always had some unaccounted for land plots where fruits and vegetables were cultivated for sale.
"Now that collective farms are history and all land is handled individually, all these land plots are accounted for," a former collective farm chairman said. "Individual farmers are compelled to grow cotton and wheat there."
"Land should recover in winter and used - but wisely - in other seasons," a farmer in Namangan said on the condition of anonymity. "When I'm through with the first crop, I plant rice. It improves condition of the land because salts are washed out. In fact, cotton is noticeably better on the areas where I cultivated rice the previous year..."
This year, however, president of Uzbekistan all but banned cultivation of rice. "We only cultivate what is permitted," the farmer said. "Our alleged independence does not actually exist."