Uzbek Cherry Producers Find New Markets

Speeches Shim

Friday, September 17, 2021
Khasan Khashimov

USAID supports Uzbek cherry enterprises to access new export markets

Uzbekistan’s once flourishing cherry market has faced serious climatic challenges in recent years. Harsh weather conditions such as frosts and extreme temperature fluctuations have steadily led to significant losses in sweet cherry harvests.

Among the cherry farms affected by such challenges is Agro Elit farm enterprise, located in Kibray, a district adjacent to Uzbekistan’s capital, Tashkent. “We started our farming enterprise in 2016 on 170 hectares of land”, says 44-year-old Khasan Khashimov, manager of the farm. “We grow apples, pears, peaches, and grapes. During the first year, we planted cherry saplings on 36 hectares and sold our first harvest in 2019. But this year, because of extreme frosts, we lost more than 90 percent of our harvest.” Out of 100 metric tons of cherries expected, Agro Elit harvested only eight metric tons. 

Since the farm had lost most of its produce, the owners decided to export half of this year’s cherry harvest to help offset production costs. This is when they were offered to sell the cherries to Dubai, United Arab Emirates for at least a 50 percent higher price than the regional markets.

It was time to explore a new opportunity. However, Khasan and his team had limited knowledge of the cold chain and other post-harvest procedures, including packaging requirements. All these steps are crucial to sustaining the quality and freshness of the exported cherries.

The USAID Agribusiness Development activity supported Khasan’s farm to overcome these challenges. To help Agro Elit export high quality cherries and enter a new market successfully, the activity’s experts closely monitored and provided guidance during the entire process of picking, sorting, packaging, transportation, cooling, and storage of cherries. The experts also assisted Agro Elit to optimize cooling temperatures and introduced Agro Elit to Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) – an innovative packaging method that prolongs the cherries’ shelf life by up to 1.5 months and helps maintain freshness. After introducing these new technologies, Agro Elit successfully completed two shipments of cherries totaling four metric tons to Dubai.

“We learned that if we cool the cherries right after picking, it prolongs their freshness for 12 days, giving us more time for export opportunities. We had no idea about this cooling method before and therefore we used to sell fresh cherries right after harvest at the local markets,” says Khasan.

Agro Elit is one of the many agribusinesses that received direct support from the USAID Agribusiness Development activity. The activity builds the capacity of local farmers and entrepreneurs to help them meet the quality standards needed to enter new markets. The USAID Agribusiness Development activity also supports local agribusinesses to add value to products, introduce new technologies and business management practices, and helps agribusinesses improve their profitability, sales, and income. In addition to Agro Elit, the USAID Agribusiness Development activity provided technical assistance in post-harvest handling and cold chain development to local exporters, including FS Logistics LLC and Ferghana Exim Agro LLC, which collectively exported nearly 30 metric tons of cherries to Latvia in 2021.

“Next year we will focus more on export. We are planning to purchase hydrocooling and sorting equipment. Our target is to harvest 150 metric tons of fresh cherries in 2022, and export 90 percent of the fruitage. We would also like to explore new markets such as South Korea”, Khasan adds.

Last updated: November 18, 2021

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