The Fruits of Jahongir’s Labor

Jahongir Giyasov at his factory in the Akkurgan district of Tashkent province, Uzbekistan. / Hazel Correa, USAID

The Fruits of Jahongir’s Labor
Boosting Uzbek entrepreneurs’ competitiveness — and livelihoods

Seven years ago on a trip in Japan — far away from his home region of Tashkent, Uzbekistan — Jahongir Giyasov, 45, tried a dried mango for the first time.

“I couldn’t believe how delicious it was,” he recalled. “It made me think about fruits from Uzbekistan that could similarly be dried and exported.”

He contemplated the delicious Uzbek melons and apples that his home country is famous for. Not long after, he decided to put his idea to the test and founded Jahon Exim Group, a dried fruit export business.

Uzbekistan’s climate is ideal for the production of fresh fruits. These fruits are grown seasonally, and profit margins are relatively low because many products are not moved efficiently from farmers to end consumers. For instance, for every $1 USD a customer spends on an Uzbekistan apple, the average exporter only earns $0.15 USD.

But better processing, storing, and packaging fruits optimally from farm to customer can help more exporters meet international export standards. This would allow Uzbekistan’s exporters to export to premium markets — and increase their share of the pie up to 60% of the final sale price.

Jahongir understood he had to capitalize on this opportunity.

“About two years ago, we realized we needed to differentiate ourselves from other Uzbekistani exporters by washing, cutting, drying, storing, and packaging our produce using international best practices,” says Jahongir. All he needed was a bit of support.

USAID’s Competitiveness, Trade, and Jobs activity increases competitiveness, exports, and employment in horticulture, tourism, transport, and logistics across the five countries of Central Asia. This includes Uzbekistan, where approximately a quarter of the workforce is engaged in agriculture. By creating thriving agricultural enterprises, USAID helps Uzbekistan’s domestic producers add value to their products and supports exporters to diversify their markets, creating jobs and boosting livelihoods and entire economies.

In 2019, USAID sent a call for applications across Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan for small- and medium-sized enterprises to apply for co-funding that would help them realize their cutting-edge ideas. Through this effort, USAID wanted to support innovative enterprises eager to boost their competitiveness, and create new jobs. They had to be ready to accept risk, match USAID’s cost-sharing at 50%, and integrate technologies that didn’t currently exist in their domestic markets.

Jahon Exim Group’s application was a success. In December 2019, USAID helped Jahongir purchase better fruit and vegetable cutting and drying equipment. “That cutting equipment ensured that every piece of fruit was cut uniformly in size and shape,” says Jahongir.

“This drying equipment has several settings optimal for various fruits that need to be dried at specific temperatures, considering levels of moisture and humidity,” adds Jahongir.

Now in its fifth year of operation, Jahongir’s business can now export dried Uzbekistan fruits to several premium international markets. By using this superior technology, Jahon Exim Group exports dried apples at $3 per kilogram versus most the average $2 per kilogram.

Jahongir is especially proud that his business is creating jobs for people in his hometown in the Tashkent region. Since the installation of the new equipment, Jahon Exim Group has hired eight additional employees and, during the peak harvest and processing season, employs up to 50 seasonal workers in the factory. Now with the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic over and thanks to the new equipment, Jahon Exim Group expects to double its exports in 2022.

By incentivizing firms to become more regionally and internationally competitive, USAID is helping to develop a more diverse and competitive private sector and generate export-driven growth in Uzbekistan and across Central Asia.

“There is so much potential for Uzbek fruits and vegetables in global markets. Thanks to USAID, we are so much closer to maximizing that potential,” says a smiling Jahongir.

About the Author

Hazel Correa is the Senior Regional Development Outreach and Communications Coordinator for USAID’s Mission in Central Asia.