14 June 1996

Where privatisations something else…

HOW do you define privatisation? Private ownership of land and business? Perhaps in most countries but not, it seems, in Uzbekistan.

In Uzbekistan there is a different interpretation: Land remains in state ownership with leasing a possibility for the future.

And so it is that "privatised" Uzbekistan farms remain in much the same format as they did before independence – the state dictates the area of crops to be grown, the way the crops are sold and, albeit now to a lesser degree, the machinery used to grow them.

One of the countrys largest collective farms is to be found 25km (15 miles) to the east of Tashkent. A joint farming operation of some 4000ha (10,000 acres) formed in 1925, it is led by Stanislav Timopheevich.

Undoubtedly a powerful, influential man in the district, Mr Timopheevich has an entire community under his control – 1500 workers from a local population of 25,000.

Farm statistics make for interesting reading: Wheat 1362ha (3365 acres), cotton 1100ha (2700 acres), maize 500ha (1235 acres) and lucerne with 355ha (877 acres) form the brunt of the cropping area, but there are also 36ha (89 acres) of rice, 30ha (75 acres) fodder beet, 35ha (86 acres) onions and no less than 24ha (60 acres) under glass for assorted vegetable production.

And if that was not enough, there is also a 2000-cow milking herd plus a sizeable number of followers.

With the governments policy of increasing wheat production, cropping emphasis has changed since independence. In 1990 wheat only accounted for some 200ha (500 acres), while cotton – then as now a major export earner – was allocated 1600ha (4000 acres).

The farm runs 10 combine harvesters, one of which is the Case 2166 axial flow complete with a 6m (20ft) header. As yet untried, Mr Timopheevich is already voicing concern about the quality of the straw left in the field and the ability of his balers to cope with it. Bearing in mind the low moisture content of Uzbekistans harvest, it could be a problem echoed by many other Case combine users in the country.

Other key machinery extends to 15 cotton pickers, 200 tractors, 100 lorries and a host of cultivation and drill equipment. All the land is ploughed.

When it comes to marketing crop production, it is mandatory to sell half the tonnage to the state at a price set at 70% of world market price with the other half being free to be sold as or when the farm leader decides.

In practice most farms sell all their produce to the state, the cost of haulage and storage making the states offer attractive. Mr Timopheevich, however, sells a significant wheat tonnage to a local mill and buys back the flour which is then distributed among his workers. &#42

One of the collective farms rice harvesters with Stanislav Timopheevich (inset), leader of the 4000ha (10,000-acre) collective farm east of Tashkent.