Supporting fruit growers in Central Asia

A piece of fruit inspired a dream and expanded a business.

Jahongir Giyasov of Uzbekistan tasted mango on a trip to Japan, and the taste provided inspiration. He thought about packaging fruits from his native country for sale by export.

With help from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), he turned the idea of selling apples and melons in Uzbekistan into a market reality.

“There is so much potential for Uzbek fruits and vegetables in global markets. Thanks to USAID, we are so much closer to maximizing that potential,” Jahongir said.

Left: Jahongir Giyasov standing next to sign with fruits on it. Middle: Packaged dried fruit. Right: Assembly workers in factory processing apples (All photos: Hazel Corea/USAID)
Left: Jahongir Giyasov at his factory in the Akkurgan district of Tashkent province, Uzbekistan, with (middle) examples of the dried fruit he now exports. Right: Factory workers readying apples for sale. (All photos: Hazel Corea/USAID)

Twenty-five percent of Uzbeks work in agriculture. The country boasts an ideal climate for fruit growers, but many local farmers lack resources to compete internationally.

Jahongir learned storage and packaging techniques that allowed him to send fruits abroad. Through USAID’s Competitiveness, Trade, and Jobs activity, USAID covered 50 percent of costs. That allowed him to purchase cutting and drying equipment.

Jahongir can sell dried apples at $3 per kilogram, compared with a $2 per kilogram average price. He hired eight additional workers, and during the peak harvest and processing season, employs up to 50 seasonal workers in the factory. He expects to double his harvest during 2022.

Marketing apricots from Tajikistan

As a small apricot producer in Tajikistan, Pulot Ashurov did not have the volume to enter the export market. He purchased cold storage facilities with help from USAID’s Productive Agriculture Project. After acquiring apricots from neighboring farmers, he had enough to export.

He owns orchards in Sughd province, on the nation’s northern border. Pulot credits the USAID project with helping him to boost revenue and to export apricots from Tajikistan.

Pulot Ashurov standing amid blossoming trees (USAID)
Pulot Ashurov in his apricot garden. Uzbekistan’s fertile land has been producing delicious apricots for decades. Now Ashurov’s orchards can export more. (USAID)

Pulot exported about 14 metric tons of apricots to Russia in years past. During 2019, his business shipped 680 metric tons of apricots to the United Kingdom and Poland.

“The starting point for my business and many other businesses across Tajikistan has been our partnership with USAID, which enabled us to demonstrate the quality and safety of our products,” Pulot said. “Once consumers taste our perfectly ripened and beautifully packaged apricots, our apricots find a niche in that market.”

He continues to apply lessons learned through the USAID Competitiveness, Trade, and Jobs sessions. As the business expanded, Pulot hired 60 more employees, in addition to seasonal employees.

Mentoring apple farmers in Turkmenistan

Meselli Meselliyev is devoted to apple farming in Turkmenistan. His orchard served as a training ground for industry peers.

Apples are a staple of the nation’s fruit industry. His home province, Ahal, is responsible for one-fifth of the nation’s agricultural output.

Through the USAID Competitiveness, Trade, and Jobs activity, Meselli learned new fertilizer techniques, soil treatment and pest control methods. His crop yield for 2020 was nearly twice the output he had in 2019.

Three crates with green, yellow and red apples in them (Murad Atayev/USAID)
Many popular apple varieties are grown in Turkmenistan, including Fuji, Gala, Golden Delicious and Granny Smith. (Murad Atayev/USAID)

The Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, the USAID partner in Turkmenistan, chose Meselli’s orchard as a school to offer training to other members of the agricultural community.

“Thanks to USAID, I learned how to prune correctly, apply optimal fertilizers, irrigate at the right time, and in the right quantities, and manage disease and pest infestations,” he said.