As part of its effort to expand the presence of U.S. beef in emerging markets in the Greater Russia region, USMEF recently participated in the WorldFood Uzbekistan food exhibition. Funding support for the event was provided by the USDA Market Access Program (MAP) and the Beef Checkoff Program.
Although active in this market for the past two years, this was the first time USMEF has exhibited at a trade show in Uzbekistan. 2015 marked the 15th year for WorldFood Uzbekistan, which is held annually in Tashkent, the capital city.
“WorldFood is targeted exclusively at the Uzbekistan market, but it is the nation’s premier food show and is gaining greater attention throughout the Greater Russia region,” explained Yuri Barutkin, the USMEF representative based in St. Petersburg, Russia.
With a population of nearly 30 million, Uzbekistan is the largest market in Central Asia (by comparison, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan have a combined population of about 36 million). Uzbekistan also has a diverse and rapidly developing economy, with annual GDP growth averaging about 8 percent over the past nine years. Uzbekistan’s domestic meat production is not keeping pace with its growing demand, and this has definitely drawn the attention of exporting countries.
“As recently as two years ago you would see very few, if any, meat companies at WorldFood Uzbekistan,” Barutkin said. “But this year, in addition to the U.S. meat industry, there was a strong presence from Germany and the Baltic region, as well as several meat trading companies from the European Union.”
Because Uzbekistan’s population is more than 90 percent Muslim, pork is consumed in smaller quantities than beef, lamb or poultry. Uzbekistan is temporarily closed to U.S. pork due to PEDV-related restrictions.
Uzbekistan was the 15th largest volume market for EU beef exports last year at 4,324 metric tons (mt), valued at $22 million. Brazilian beef has also made inroads in the market. Last year Brazilian beef exports to Uzbekistan totaled 636 mt valued at $1.95 million – up 80 percent from 2013.
“There is still a lot ground work to be done before U.S. meat has an established presence in Uzbekistan,” said Barutkin. “But the need for protein is definitely growing, and WorldFood Uzbekistan was an excellent venue for introducing our beef products – which were well-received.”
Upcoming USMEF activities for the Greater Russia region include: a U.S. meat forum April 15-16 in Tbilisi, Georgia, that is designed to familiarize importers from Georgia and Armenia with U.S. beef; an educational visit to the United States by veterinary officials from Uzbekistan April 18-25; and a U.S. beef master class next month in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.