29 september 2020

Central Asia news

Food coupon system to be introduced in Uzbekistan

26.09.2007 10:51 msk

Ferghana.Ru news agency

Business Uzbekistan

Ferghana.Ru sources in Samarkand report that flour and cotton oil (particularly popular kind of vegetable oil) disappeared from sale. Off the record, insiders say that flour and oil will be distributed among mahallyas now [mahallya is a community, the smallest administrative unit in modern Uzbekistan - Ferghana.Ru]. An individual will be entitled to 0.1 kg oil and 1 kg flour a month.

"Flour and oil disappeared from stores a fortnight ago," source said. "They are at high premium now. Flour may be found at 1,200 sums ($1=1,270 sums), oil at 3,000 sums... A 4.5 liter bottle oil cotton oil cost 9,500 sums in the first decade of September. It costs 11,500 sums these days."

Ferghana.Ru reported already that a loaf of bread could be had for 200 sums in the first days of August and 350 sums in the middle of September. Sources in Samarkand say that a loaf of bread costs 400 sums nowadays.

Prices of essential foodstuffs keep spiralling in the Ferghana Valley, a local journalist told Die Deutsche Welle. She said that cotton and vegetable oil cost $2.5-3.5 now, meat $4 and more. Prices in other regions of Uzbekistan are also prohibitive, but noticeably less so than in Ferghana. According to the journalist, high prices and shortage of food are not restricted to the Ferghana region alone. They are typical of Karakalpakstan too.

Die Deutsche Welle reports its sources in security structures as saying that President Islam Karimov ordered introduction of a system of food coupons in the country. The order to make the necessary arrangements went down to local administrations. The same source maintains that the necessary arrangements are already made in large cities. Security structures in the meantime draw up a complex of measures against the businessmen who allegedly buy foodstuffs wholesale and sell them at prohibitive retail prices afterwards. The implication is that the enraged population may respond with insurrection.

The population itself, at least in the Ferghana Valley, upholds a different hypothesis. It is whispered among local journalists that the food shortage is actually an element of the president's forthcoming campaign. He is expected to intervene at the last moment to restore order and make foodstuffs affordable again. The president will thus win the population over and channel its wrath at the businessmen who "line their pockets and simultaneously finance and foment discontent the way they have already done in Andijan" (!). Arrests of businessmen are expected.