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Helping Central Asia countries explore once again their trade potential in nuts and dried fruit

Helping Central Asia countries explore once again their trade potential in nuts and dried fruit

In Central Asia, the silk routes, the caravans of merchants made it possible for East and West to exchange culture, customs and goods - spices, silk, perfumes and food - and thus determined life and livelihoods for centuries… And, so have nuts and dried fruit traded on the silk routes and part of Central Asian diets and traditions for thousands of years. Their importance in local production and community life has never ceased.  

While centuries have passed, the desire to trade at the cross-roads of East and West has remained strong in the landlocked countries of Central Asia. Agriculture, including the production of nuts and dried fruit, has become a targeted development area, where trade and new export markets could help improve the livelihoods and employment of small farmers and especially women. Having favorable climatic conditions, ancient natural pistachio or walnut cultivations and a great potential for organic and sustainable agricultural production, the opportunities could be vast.   At the same time, great nuts and dried fruit are not sufficient, by themselves, to become part of today’s complex agri-food supply chains.

This is why UNECE, together with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the German aid agency (GIZ), and supported by the Ministry for Foreign Economic Relations, Investment and Trade of Uzbekistan held, in Tashkent, a practical training workshop on Agri-Food Supply Chains in the Cross-Border Trade of Nuts and Dried Fruit focusing on quality, food safety, business processes and potential markets. The first training of its kind in Uzbekistan, the workshop brought together over 70 participants from Uzbekistan and Central Asia, and from both the public and private sectors -- all keen on learning more about how to explore the region’s large but so far largely untapped export potential in this sector.

Participants (with women outnumbering men) received comprehensive insights into how to increase their countries’ competitiveness based on international best practice; food safety; quality and its assurance; UNECE marketing standards; and improved business processes. UNECE’s experts from around the world (Europe, Asia and America) trained participants in practical training sessions and at Uzbekistan’s first International Fruit and Vegetable Fair.  Focused follow-up training tailored to specific national requirements will be organized at national levels with local partners and aid agencies. A similar workshop in 2015 led to concrete decisions by Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to adopt UNECE standards for nuts and dried fruit and to gradually pool their productions for improved joint export potential.

The nuts and dried fruit sector has the potential to provide great opportunities for Central Asia and, as in the times of the ancient silk routes, both westward and eastward markets. Who knows? One day, this trade might even lead to the creation of legendary nut and dried fruit routes.  

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