The concept of strategic self reliance of Turkmenistan includes uninterrupted, locally sustainable self sufficiency in the following:
- Staples including wheat and rice, and their value added products such as wheat flour, bread, etc.
- Fruit and vegetables
- Edible oil, mainly cooking oil
- Meat and meat products
- Poultry and eggs, and their value added products
- Dairy products including milk and cheese
- Cleanliness and hygiene products including soap, detergents
- Fuel, mainly gasoline and diesel
- Medicines and medical supplies
These are the things that must be produced locally by the public and private sector of Turkmenistan to ensure that the country can keep functioning without any external dependence. The focus here is to meet the essential needs.
In addition, the idea of self reliance includes some capabilities and services:
- Utilities including water, electricity, gas, garbage disposal, sanitary services
- Communications including telephone, Internet, broadcasting services
- Transportation covering both the means of transportation and the infrastructure for transportation
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The holistic approach that encompasses every policy decision of Turkmenistan is at play here. Because of this we can see that the guidelines issued by President Berdimuhamedov at the cabinet meeting on 3 April 2020 do not call for the start of something new. — Systematic work toward self reliance in core areas is in advanced stage already.
Wheat and rice farming and the processing of these staples into value added products is quite advanced already.
The greenhouse farming has been a resounding success. The essential vegetables and fruit are available in every season.
Fuel, textiles, and fertilizers are the areas where Turkmenistan not only meets the local needs but exports the surplus.
Meat, milk, poultry, eggs and their value added products are available in ever expanding range of choices.
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There are areas where more needs to be done to strengthen self reliance, and thrive in the post-Covid-19 world.
In the agriculture sector, soybean is a promising candidate. It can do much more than fill the gap in the edible oil sector.
It would be advisable to study the prospects of mass cultivation of soybean. Some early maturing varieties could be suitable for the soil and climate conditions of Turkmenistan.
Soybean is the source of edible oil that is suitable for all kinds of cooking including deep frying. The oil is also suited for commercially viable and eco friendly biodiesel production.
Weight for weight, soybean is more efficient than other sources – 60 pounds of soybean yields about 11 pounds of raw soybean oil and 47 pounds of soybean meal, which can then be converted into a number of products.
Soybean has an astonishing range of possibilities – edible oil, biodiesel, margarine, salad dressing, mayonnaise, baked products, feed for animals, fish, and poultry, wood-replacement, environmentally friendly solvent, lubricants, foam for automobile seats and furniture, etc.
Other sources for edible oil should also be explored.
The farming sector would need to continue working on the expansion of potatoes and onions cultivation.
Simultaneously, the greenhouse farmers in Turkmenistan will benefit by paying more attention to the cultivation of bananas, ginger, garlic etc.
In the medicine and medical supplies sector, Turkmenistan is doing considerable work but total self reliance cannot be a rational goal. There are obstacles such as limited size of market that doesn’t allow for installing production lines of every medicine or medical supply. In such case, it is advisable to build strategic reserves of necessary medicines and medical supplies.
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A deeper look into the remarks of President Berdimuhamedov at the cabinet meeting on 3 April 2020 suggests that Turkmenistan looks at Covid-19 as a challenge, as a liberating force.
As we see around the world, the people have the ability to make the best of a bad situation.
Covid-19 is causing havoc in Asia, Europe and North America. There are tragic losses of life. There is disruption and chaos. Life is at standstill in many parts of the world.
Nevertheless, people are rising to the challenge everywhere. People always do. That is how we evolve.
For instance, one bottleneck in the healthcare system was the shortage of ventilators. Within the past few weeks dozens of innovative and low-priced substitutes for a mechanical lung have been developed around the world.
In Turkmenistan, a private company has launched a new formula of liquid soap with Peganum harmala (Yuzarlyk) as its ingredient. This is very useful considering that washing of hands is one of the most important preventions against the spread of Covid-19.
While self reliance is a necessary goal, it is also the platform from which to build new kinds of partnerships, within the region and across the world. This is what Turkmenistan plans to do. /// nCa, 7 April 2020
To be continued . . .