January 26, 2014
Tajikistan, the poorest ex-Soviet nation, lowered its raw cotton output by 6 percent to 392,811 tonnes in 2013 and expects production may decline further due to low prices for the commodity. The Muslim nation of 8 million, which borders China and Afghanistan, used to produce annually up to 1 million tonnes of raw cotton in the Soviet era.
In 2011 and 2012, Tajik cotton output exceeded 400,000 tonnes for the first time since independence in 1991. “Cotton is a labour-intensive plant … but a lack of demand and low prices on the world market, as well as the absence of seasonal soft loans (for cotton growers) do not inspire us to develop this sector,” Tajik Agriculture Minister Kosim Kosimov told a news conference.
Prices for medium-staple cotton fibre averaged a record $5,200 per tonne in 2011, falling to between $1,700 and $1,800 last year, he said. Primary aluminium and cotton remain major exports for Tajikistan, which has more than 1 million citizens working abroad, mainly in Russia, sending back cash to help keep the shaky economy afloat. Tajikistan exported 114,400 tonnes of cotton fibre worth $189.2 million, or 16.3 percent of all its exports, last year.
“We are ready to grow fine-staple cotton for the world’s military industries, in particular, for making parachutes, if there are orders to grow this variety of cotton,” Kosimov said. “We do not reject this plant as such, but it’s problematic to provide enough fertilisers, machinery and labour.”