The prime minister of Uzbekistan has demanded an abundant cotton harvest and threatening jail time for those who fail to produce state quotas, once again setting the tone for desperate local administrators and farmers to resort to forced child labour to accommodate the pressure from Tashkent.
Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyoyev, the Prime Minister of Uzbekistan, met with regional representatives on June 19 and threatened to punish local administrators if their farmers didn’t achieve cotton production targets for the year, uznews.net reported.
This is exactly the kind of threatening statement Mirziyoyev has made in the past, creating a coercive climate where farmers and local governments in charge of meeting quotas felt they had no choice but to press school-children into service.
The independent Uzbek news site uznews.net interviewed a source who requested anonymity that described the meetings held with ministers, regional, district and town government, heads of regional interior ministries or police, prosecutors, and business and organization leaders.
Mirziyoyev pointed out that several districts and regions were in danger of producing below their grain targets this year. He asked the country’s chief prosecutor to identify and punish those responsible.
Almost all the law-enforcement agencies represented at the meeting had drawn up lists of hundreds of farmers across the country “guilty” of below target grain production. The degree to which each was responsible for this will be set out in individual assessments.
Two districts were singled out for reprimands: Kasan District in Kashkadarya Region and the Kasansaisk district of Namangansk Region, which failed to meet the state plan for the year, uznews.net reported. Reports of forced child labour were received from a number of districts of Kashkadarya last year.
With prices rising to $2.00/lb. for cotton on world markets, Uzbekistan will feel even more under pressure to produce a higher yield. The prime minister urged that quotas be met by the onset of autumn.
Farmers are not expected to benefit from these higher prices, however. One farmer told uznews.net that the price fetched for one ton of cotton was only 600,000 soums, or $348 at the official exchange rate and $241.90 at the black-market rate).