Sunday, June 24, 2007

Early Harvest

IWPR reports on how government regulations are forcing the premature harvesting of wheat:
"Farmers in Uzbekistan are angry that due to pressure to meet state targets, as well as a shortage of farm machinery, officials are forcing them to gather the wheat crop before it has fully ripened.

"On June 1, the wheat harvesting season began in Uzbekistan with local authorities dispatching combine harvesters to gather in the crop.

"With over 120,000 farms in the country, agriculture plays an important role in the Uzbek economy and contributes about one third of gross domestic product.

"Farmers who lease their land from the state are still subject to Soviet-style controls and production quotas for the staple wheat and the more profitable cotton...

"Local authorities are under intense pressure to meet large crop quotas, and if they fail, then they can be reprimanded by central government and governors can even lose their jobs.

"There is a shortage of both combine harvesters and the fuel to run them, so the regional authorities work to tight schedules, deciding when the crops should harvested according to which areas have the most ripened wheat at any given time...

"Agricultural scientists say the tight schedule, combined with pressure on local authorities to be the first to meet government targets for grain production, means crops are regularly harvested before they have fully ripened.

"The nature of irrigation systems in this largely arid country means that some patches of crops will get more water than others and will therefore ripen earlier."



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