Cotton exports from Uzbekistan are expected to rise in the coming months due to various government initiatives, higher income of cotton workers, an increasing number of workers from overseas, and pressure to stop child and forced labour from western countries.
According to ILO, child and forced labor have been eradicated from Uzbekistan’s cotton activities.
The average monthly cotton exports of Uzbekistan were $15.93 million in 2019, which dropped by 76.85 percent to $3.69 million in 2020. They picked up again to reach a monthly average of $16.88 million in the first half of 2021 and are likely to keep the upward momentum to reach a monthly average of $28.40 million in the second half, recording a surge of 68.21 percent.
For every 8 individuals of working age in Uzbekistan, about 1 person worked for the country’s cotton harvest in 2020. More than 50 per cent of the workers for cotton harvest were women.
In 2020, Uzbeks also got a higher income for cotton picking. Each picker received $150 for 21 days of work, which was much higher than their previous salary. The government of Uzbekistan has introduced a differentiated pay scale, allowing pickers to get better pay per kilogram of cotton amid less favourable conditions and less cotton to pick.
The government of Pakistan also wanted to import cotton from Uzbekistan via land routes as its crop output was lower and cotton imports from India were cancelled.
In July, the All-Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to build a textile complex in Uzbekistan. The two countries have also finalised a bilateral Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) to boost trade. Additionally, Uzbekistan had sent a high-level delegation to Gwadar Port for logistics support, which may help them export cotton conveniently to Pakistan.
All of these factors are likely to play a role in boosting the cotton exports of the country towards the end of this year.