Joint venture aims to kickstart hemp in Uzbekistan

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An Uzbek-French joint venture said it will launch Uzbekistan’s hemp industry via a project in the country’s Khorezm region.

ABM Organics, established by Tashkent-based Marafon Finlex, an Uzbek state company, and Opal & Co., New Aquitaine, France, said it will create Uzbek branded products for export to Europe while also seeking to attract investment and new technology to the Central Asian country.

Government monopoly

The Uzbek government, which set itself up to monopolize the sector, established its plan for industrial hemp earlier this year. Under a law signed by President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, state-controlled companies can grow industrial hemp with up to 0.2% THC content.

Licenses are under control of Uzbekistan’s Cabinet of Ministers, and may be awarded for hemp farming, import and export, processing, storage, purchase, sales and transport. Use of the hemp plant is limited to industrial applications.

Cotton is big export

The government said it aims to make Uzbekistan, historically the center of the Great Silk Road, a major hub in the cultivation and production of hemp while upgrading its textile-producing infrastructure. Climactic conditions and the wide presence of wildcrop hemp, which has grown in Uzbek lands since ancient times, are positive indicators for development, ABM said.

Agriculture employs about 23% of workers in Uzbekistan, population 33 million, according to the World Bank, contributing roughly 17% of GDP. While the country is the 7th biggest producer of cotton in the world, the government has been moving to diversify agriculture into cereals while reducing the production of cotton, the country’s main cash crop that accounts for 15% of exports.

Corruption serious problem

Farming in Uzbekistan requires irrigation, and occurs mainly in river valleys and oases on arable land totaling 4.5 million hectares (11 million acres), or about 10% of the country’s total land mass. Desert pastures cover fully 50% of Uzbekistan.

Uzbekistan suffers some of the worst corruption in the world, according to Transparency International, with graft present at virtually every level of society, business, and government, fueled by large reserves of natural gas and the country’s geographical position between rival powers of the post-Cold War era.

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