Central Asian public policies often tend to assert that an increase of GDP mechanically ensures better food security. This is a problematic assumption, however, as food security mainly affects pauperized populations for which per capita GDP does not increase at the same rate as national GDP. Existing programs for countering food insecurity are often superficial measures that do not get at the root of the problem and almost never take into account the quality of nutrition, which has a long-term impact on the health of younger generations. More importantly, the central plank of the fight against food insecurity has to be a fight against rural poverty. This means that states must address issues such as water management and energy access. In addition, public policies in agrarian states like Uzbekistan and Tajikistan are centered on patronal practices. Centralized cotton or—to a lesser extent—wheat production—are necessary to the functioning of the ruling regime’s political system; diversified agricultural production for domestic markets does not offer rents to ruling elites.
This memo argues that food insecurity in Central Asia is not a challenge related to difficult environmental conditions—even if such must be taken into account—but a public policy issue. It discusses the main reasons behind the growing food insecurities in the region, in particular the patterns of extensive production, and ill-calibrated import and subsidy policies. […]
PONARS Eurasia Policy Memo No. 300
By Sebastien Peyrouse