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Soaring Food Prices Prompt Eurasian Nations To Ban Food Exports

Soaring Food Prices Prompt Eurasian Nations To Ban Food Exports

The harshest winter since 2008 is contributing to shortages of staple vegetables across Central Asia and sending prices north in a region still suffering from COVID-induced food inflation.

In Uzbekistan, record frosts have highlighted the shortcomings of the national energy system as even residents of the capital spent days on end without power. But the cold has also hammered the agriculture sector in the region’s most populous country.

On January 20, the Uzbek agriculture minister announced a four-month ban on exports of onions after prices doubled in three weeks.

The title of the ministry’s press release – “there are reserves of onions in Uzbekistan” – hints at panic.

Once among the cheapest onions produced by former Soviet countries, Uzbek onions are now as expensive as onions from countries like Georgia and Moldova, the ministry said, reaching 6,000-8,000 sum (53-71 cents) per kilo.

While the frosts have ruined part of the onion stock in storage, that is not the only source of pressure on prices. Vast energy deficits have strained logistics, with gas stations shut down and roads covered in ice, the ministry said.

In comments to private news website Gazeta.uz, one resident of Bukhara region gave an account of this perfect storm: “Due to the closure of gas stations, there are problems with public transport. On Tuesday we went to the market and did not see a single bus. The only thing left is taxis. Food prices have gone up. They say that goods are not being brought from Tashkent. There are no sellers at the Kholkhozni bazaar because vegetables and fruits have frozen.”

Potatoes have also jumped in price since the start of the year – by 14 percent, reported specialist agriculture news site East Fruit last week.

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