Cold Chain Strengthening Occurs in Uzbekistan with GCCA Support
Since 2011, GCCA has partnered with DAI in Uzbekistan to provide cold chain expertise on two USAID-funded projects. On the AgLinks project from 2011-2014 GCCA focused on the instilling best practices with the nascent cold storage industry, most of which had been built during the Soviet era. With one full-time staff, Mr. Mumin Isamiddinov devoted to the project as the Regional Cold Chain Advisor, GCCA brought in short-term international technical experts to provide supplemental consultations and training on transport, logistics, design build and warehouse operations. This project focused on Namangan, Ferghana, Samarkand and Tashkent provinces of Uzbekistan.
The Agricultural Value Chains Project (AVC) project began in 2015 and builds on the success of AgLinks with expansion into new areas of Uzbekistan. It will last until 2018 with a potential for extension in 2020. The longer-term commitment by USAID in Uzbekistan with a focus on cold storage best practices has enabled GCCA to witness the impact that can occur in lower-income countries with the right advice, leadership and guidance.
Three of the cold store operators that the AgLinks project worked with (and who AVC continues to support) were all able to increase the volume of product stored. In one case, one operator located a partner to share the space while another added an additional 65 metric tons. More impressively, a third operator used the techniques and technical assistance taught during GCCA training increased the volume of his facility by 200 tons. This expansion was driven by a desire to rent space and public service for entrepreneurs during the summer for high-value apricots and other offseason products.
These operators have all seen improvements after focusing their efforts on cold storage for high value products. Specifically, it has enabled them to manage their business through h the highs and lows. One operator noted that “one month of operations for the apricot harvest and export covered all of the losses incurred while storing lower value products.”
In 2016, AVC received five requests for consultation on the construction of new cold stores and the retrofitting of old spaces. On average, owners recovered 30 to 40 percent of the capital investment in the first year by providing precooling services to exporters. An additional 20 to 30 percent is expected to be recovered through renting space for the storage of fresh products. All five have the intention to increase their cold storage investments over the next few years.
There is potential for greater success from the foundation laid by AgLinks. However, there are external factors that affect cold storage businesses, and these external factors are having an impact on the export business in Uzbekistan. Fundamental to the success of the AgLinks project has been the support of the Government. Currently, changes in export regulations have caused many exporters in Uzbekistan to switch focus and invest in neighboring countries. Much of this investment is going to Southern Tajikistan and Southern Kazakhstan. This is resulting in a shift of the skilled labor and technical knowledge into these areas and out of Uzbekistan. There is the need for continued engagement as this unfolds.