This happened because of the sudden reduction of the prices of cotton: they halved. Instead of 15-18 soms (the Kyrgyzstan national currency) per one kilo of cotton last year, the peasants are offered only 7-9 soms this year. Taking account of the increased costs on the mineral fertilizers, fuel and transportation, and the agricultural machinery, this price is far from being fair.
One can not say that the cotton prices dropped all of a sudden. They have had a decreasing trend for several years already. There was an impression that someone was controlling the process. It is possible to guess who did it. First and foremost, by second-hand dealers, who became the main figures on the cotton market of the republic. Secondly, by the governmental bodies that have a goal to establish state control over the cotton business, which used to be very profitable. Of course, no one cared to warn the common peasants about these plans, and they were trying to extend their cotton-growing lands. The autumn events in many districts of the Osha and Jalal-Abad districts of the Kyrgyzstan republic showed the results of such a policy. For example, the mass demonstrations of peasants at the end of October were on the point of massive trouble. The local governor did not manage to calm the indignant citizens down, saying that the drop of the purchasing prices was caused with the price conjuncture on the world markets. The peasants blocked a highway and agreed to resume traffic only after the cotton price were raised and the authorities promised it would go higher afterwards as well.
Another serious conflict happened in the Aksyisky district of the Osha region, where the conflict of peasants ended with a fight. Someone tried to use it for unleashing international hostility: the cotton was bought there by the Kyrgyz-German joint venture.
One of the managers of the firm Kyrgyzpakhtasy, Kanybek Ukibasov, had a very simple explanation to all of the incidents: “Last year, one ton of cotton cost 1.4 thousand dollars on the world exchange and we purchased one kilo of cotton at price of 18 soms. Now, the prices have reduced down to the level of 755 dollars. Therefore, we were forced to pay less.”
The saddest thing is that the “cotton crisis” in Kyrgyzstan is not an exception nowadays. There is a critical situation with the tobacco industry there too. The tobacco producers’ income, which comes from very harmful work, is going down each year. The same situation is with onions and beans.
This situation is reflecting the continuous decrease of the living standard of the population of this country, especially in its agricultural part. The international group for the critical situations research of the Osha region has stated that over half of Kyrgyzstan’s population lives below the poverty line. The minimum wage of a family is almost seven times less than the living wage! In 1993, there were only 24 people with TB out of 100 thousand , but in 1998, this index doubled.
This situation also testifies to the fact that a wild market, when no one studies the demand and does not do market planning, can result in the situations like these. Anyway, the government of the country does not seem to take any measures for improving the situation and correct mistakes. The only thing it agreed to do was to purchase the cotton at the increased prices (up to 17 soms per one kilo) in order to cancel the credits given to the peasants by this same government. What is going to be next, no one knows.
Yury Razgulayev PRAVDA.Ru Bishkek Kyrgyzstan