Kyrgyz Cowboys Fear Eurasian Trade Rules
As Kyrgyz-Tajik border becomes subject to new customs rules, thriving trade in beef cattle could fall off.
As Kyrgyzstan moves closer to joining the Eurasian Economic Union, farmers in the southern Batken region are concerned that livestock exports to nearby Tajikistan will be hampered by new customs regulations.
When it joins the bloc in May, Kyrgyzstan will find it much easier to trade with the other members – Russia, Kazakstan, Belarus and Armenia. But Tajikistan will become an outsider, and Kyrgyzstan will have to impose Eurasian union’s customs fees, regulations and veterinary checks.
In Batken, a sliver of land bounded by Tajikistan on one side and Uzbekistan on the other, farmers make good use of the traditional Kyrgyz expertise in livestock-raising by acquiring animals and fattening them up for market in Tajikistan. Even people who do not own farms keep a few cattle for this purpose. Such is the demand that they buy them in from other parts of Kyrgyzstan when necessary.
“It varies – one cow might take a month to reach the required weight, while another might need two months. As soon as the cow is fit for sale, the customer comes and gets it from our house,” said Jumagul, whose family makes their living from the Tajik market. “They say that when we join the customs union, the border will close. We don’t understand what will happen. It’s doing our heads in.”
Jumagul’s husband Maksatbek added, “If Tajikistan stops buying our livestock, we’ll be left without the means to survive…. If our work comes to an end, we’ll be forced to go [as migrant labour] to Russia.”
Jenish Aydarov is an IWPR contributor in Batken, Kyrgyzstan.
This audio programme went out in Russian and Kyrgyz on national radio stations in Kyrgyzstan. It was produced under two IWPR projects, Investigative Journalism to Promote Democratic Reform, funded by the European Union; and Strengthening Capacities, Bridging Divides in Central Asia, funded by the Foreign Ministry of Norway. The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of IWPR and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the EU or the Norwegian government