March 30, 2023

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Bad weather threatens rice pilaf and Uzbek pantry

Meat, Carrots, Onions, Rice and Oil: This is a plow, a popular Uzbek rice pilaf recipe. But as severe weather has destroyed crops, prices for these staple foods have risen in Uzbekistan.

Holding a few yellow carrots, farmer Mukhtar Kasatov praises the qualifications: “They are sweeter than orange carrots and give a specific taste,” he told AFP.

This food is at the heart of the eating habits of 35 million citizens of Central Asia.

But this year, with an exceptional drought, Mr. It destroyed the farms of farmers like Kasatov and quadrupled the price of carrots, thus driving up the price of the plow.

“When it’s hot, some carrots burn. The remaining carrots are small, ”explains the 60-year-old on his farm near the capital, Tashkent.

He says he lost a third of his annual income due to a drought that caused the thermometer to exceed 40 C in early June, a month when daytime temperatures are generally below 35.

Mukhtar Kasatov says the heat stroke ended the crops already weakened by the spring cold.

– Blow and Love –

Plow is everywhere on the streets of Tashkent, in restaurant menus. Made in huge pots and according to different recipes, it should be a must during the holidays.

Local folk tales confirm that Thursday is a day dedicated to the preparation of food and romance.

The role of the blow is that the government created the “blow index” last year to measure the cost of living, such as the Big Mac or “housewife basket” in other countries.

However, from January to September 2021, it exploded.

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In Tashkent the price of plow increased by almost 30%, while the price of meat and carrots rose.

In addition to the weather, prices have been affected by import difficulties, for example Russia has grown very few carrots to make up for the poor Uzbek harvest, says Nowruz Kuramov, an expert at the Eastfruit analysis site.

– Water, a scarce resource –

Furthermore, due to climate change, episodes of severe drought and heat are expected to increase, reducing already depleted water resources.

This arid Central Asian country relies heavily on rivers for its crops from the glaciers of neighboring Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. However, these are regressive.

In this context, the Uzbek government is trying to reduce areas of high-water crops such as cotton and plow rice.

The summer heat wave provided a glimpse into a future across Central Asia where it would be impossible or unprofitable to cultivate certain foods.

In neighboring Kazakhstan, the drought killed livestock and imposed restrictions on meat exports, further fueling inflation in Uzbekistan.

The only thing that can control the blow price hike in Tashkent in the short term is the competition of restaurants. We expect good yields next year.

Abdurahim Mirzaev, a 59-year-old chef who specializes in plows, has decided to drop profits this year if his restaurant is full.

“You have to prepare the plow with love and a pure heart,” he says busy in the kitchen.

He prepares a version of the dish called “wedding” or “holiday” plow with grapes and chickpeas.

But the chef says the carrot is irreplaceable in giving it its special flavor.

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Zavokir Djamolidinov, deputy director of the National Statistics Committee, which manages the “Blow Index”, is optimistic.

Noting the recent fall in carrot prices, he welcomed the government’s move to control food prices.

According to him, there is no threat to the national diet. “We always ate plow. We always ate it.”