State-led cotton deregulation in Uzbekistan: Reforms and effects.

Etenesh B. Asfaw

Center for Policy Research and Outreach, Westminster International University in Tashkent. Istiqbol Str., 12, Mirabad Dist., Tashkent 100047


Research paper

This article belongs to the Special Section “30 years of farm restructuring and water management reforms in Central Asia”


Uzbekistan’s cotton supply chain experienced a wave of deregulation reforms in the last five years. This paper attempts to assess the process and results of the State-driven transition from the centrally planned cotton sector to private cotton-textile clusters. The article employs secondary data sources to analyse the effects of the deregulation policies descriptively. The study reveals that the deregulation reforms increased productivity in the sector. The reform initiatives also vertically integrated the cotton supply chain from production to marketing. However, the reforms failed to transparently incorporate and harmonise the needs of cotton farmers that grow and sell raw cotton. Consequently, the promises of the State-led deregulation reforms and initiatives are eroded. The article highlights the emerging risks and tensions in the current cotton liberalisation and privatisation reforms in Uzbekistan.

Download the article (eng)

For citation:  Asfaw, E. B. (2021). State-led cotton deregulation in Uzbekistan: Reforms and effects. Central Asian Journal of Water Research, 7(2), 121–137.


Armstrong, M. and Sappington, D. (2006). Regulation, Competition and Liberalisation, Journal of Economic Literature, 32(2): 353-380.

Asfaw, E. (2020). Global Practices in Agriculture Knowledge & Innovation System: Lessons for Uzbekistan’s AKIS. Center for Policy Research and Outreach (CPRO), WIUT, Uzbekistan.

Balassa, B. (1965). Trade Liberalisation and ‘Revealed’ Comparative Advantage. The Manchester School of Economic and Social Studies,  33: 99-123.

Batmanghelidj, E. and Shaykhov, O. (2020). The Boycott on Uzbek Cotton Needs to End.  Foreign Policy. Argument published March 28, 2020. The Boycott on Uzbek Cotton Needs to End ( 

Belloc, F. and Nacita, A. (2011). Liberalisation-Privatisation path: Policies and Politics. Europian University Institute, Working paper 2011-32, Milano.

Cotton Campaign. (2021). A Changing Landscape in Uzbek Cotton Production. January 27, 2021. Washington, DC.   Uzbek Forum Key Findings 2020 (

Djanibekov, N., Rudenko, I., Lamers, J., and Bobojanov, I. (2010). Pros and Cons of Cotton production in Uzbekistan. Case Study # 7-9: Food Policy for Developing Countries: The role of government in the global food system, Cornel University.

Djanibekov, N., Charyyeva, S. and Sanaev,G. (2020). Cotton Sector Reforms in Central Asia. IAMO Annual.

Djanibekov, U and Finger, R. (2018). Agricultural risks and farmland consolidation process in transition countries: The case of cotton production in Uzbekistan. Agriculture Systems 164,223-235.

French, S. (2017). Revealed comparative advantage: What is it good for? Journal of International Economics, 106: 83-103

Galvez-Nogales, E. (2010). Agro-based clusters in developing countries: staying competitive in a globalised economy. FAO- Marketing Economist Rural Infrastructure and Agro-Industries Division Rome, Italy.  See

Grove, T. (2018). Uzbekistan Aims to End Forced Labor in Cotton Fields. Wall Street Journal.:

Hillman, A. (1980). Observation on the relation between ‘Revealed comparative advantage and Comparative Advantage as Indicated by Pre-Trade Relative Prices. Review of World Economics, 116(2): 315-321. doi:10.1007/BF02696859.pdf .

International Labour Organization (ILO), (2017). Recruitment practices and seasonal employment in agriculture in Uzbekistan, Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work Branch (FUNDAMENTALS) – Geneva.—ed_norm/—ipec/documents/publication/wcms_561537.pdf.

ILO (2019).Third-party monitoring of child labour and forced labour during the 2018 cotton harvest in Uzbekistan, Geneva.

ILO (2020). Third-party monitoring of child labour and forced labour during the 2019 cotton harvest in Uzbekistan, Geneva.

ILO (2021a). Systemic forced labour and child labour has come to an end in Uzbek cotton. Press release January 28, 2021.–en/index.htm.

ILO (2021b). Third-party monitoring of child labour and forced labour during the 2020 cotton harvest in Uzbekistan, Geneva.–en/index.htm.

Lasslett, K.; Niyazova, U.; and Stanczak, D. (2020). Out of the Cauldron, into the fire? Risk and the privatisation of Uzbekistan’s Cotton sector. Uzbek Forum for Human Rights and Ulster University.

Lillis, J. (2017). Uzbekistan: Without Forced Labor, Who will Pick the Cotton? Eurasianet article. See:

Lombardozzi, L. (2020). Patterns of accumulation and social differentiation through a slow-paced agrarian market transition in post-Soviet Uzbekistan. J Agrar Change 2020;20:637-658.

Macdonald, S. (2012). Economic Policy and Cotton in Uzbekistan. USDA, Economic Research Service. .

Makarenko, N. (2020). Uzbekistan dismantles a 70-year-old chain of cotton slavery. June 23, 2021.

McGuire, D. and Laaser, K.(2018). You have to pick’: Cotton and State-organized forced labour in Uzbekistan. Economic and Industrial Democracy Journal, 42(3):552-572.

Micklin, P. (1988). Desiccation of the Aral Sea: A Water Management Disaster in the Soviet Union.  Science, 241 (4870): 1170-1176. See doi: 10.1126/science.241.4870.1170.

Petrick, M.; Oshakbayev , D.; Taitukova, R.; and Djanibekov, N. (2017). The return of the regulator: Kazakhstan’s cotton sector reforms since independence. Central Asian Survey 2017: 36, 4, 430–452.

Petrick, M.; and Djanibekov, N. (2019). Farm restructuring in Uzbekistan: What next? IAMO Policy Brief No. 36. Germany.

Pomfret, R. (2002).State-directed diffusion of technology: The mechanisation of cotton harvesting in Soviet Central Asia. Journal of Economic History, 62 (1): 170–188.

Pomfret, R. (2009). Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. In K. Anderson & J. Swinnen (Eds.), Distortions to Agricultural Incentives in Europe’s Transition Economies,  297–338. Washington, DC.

Putz, C. (2020). Kristian Lasslett on Uzbekistan’s Cotton Clusters Conundrum. The Diplomat. July 14.

Roland, G. (2008). Privatisation: Successes and Failures. Columbia University Press, New York.

Rudenko, I., Grote, U., and Lamers, J. (2008). Using a value chain approach for economic and environmental assessment of cotton production in Uzbekistan. In J. Qi and K. T. Evered (eds.), Environmental Problems of Central Asia and their Economic, Social and Security Impacts.

  Rudenko, I., Lamers, J., and Grote, U. (2009). Can Uzbek Farmers Get More for their Cotton? European Journal of Development Research, 21, 283–296. doi:10.1057/ejdr.2009.3

Rudenko, I., Nurmetov, K., and Lamers, J. (2012). State Order and Policy Strategies in the Cotton and Wheat Value Chains. Book Chapter in C. Martius et al. (eds.), Cotton, Water, Salts, and Soums: Economic and Ecological Restructuring in Khorezm, Uzbekistan, DOI: 10.1007/978-94-007-1963-7_22.

Schweisfurth, L.(2020). Eliminating Forced Labor in Uzbekistan’s Cotton Sector – A Work Still in Progress. The Diplomat, December 15, 2020.

State Statistical Committee of Uzbekistan (SSC). (2020). Uzbekistan Agriculture Statistics (2016-2019) bulletin. Tashkent.

Swinkels, R., Romanova, E., and Kochkin, E. (2016).  Assessing the social impact of cotton harvest mechanisation in Uzbekistan.  Washington, D.C. : World Bank Group.

Synovitz, R. (2020). Uzbek State Workers Say they’re Still Being Forced To Pick Cotton. RFERL’s Uzbek Service, September 17, 2020. See:

Synovitz, R. and Ashur, S. (2019). Uzbek Farmers Get’ Cluster’ Bombed by Reforms. RadioFreeEurope Radio Liberty (rferl) Uzbek Service on December 16, 2019.

Synovitz R. and Bobojon, S. (2021). ‘Swamp of Poverty’: Uzbek Cotton Farmers Refusing to Work With ‘Cluster’ Monopoly. RadioFreeEurope Radio Liberty (rferl) January 20, 2021.

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA-GAIN). (2020). Cotton and Products Annual Report, Turkey. DownloadReportByFileName (

Uzbek Forum for Human Rights (UFHR). (2020). Cotton chronicle: Interim findings on Uzbekistan’s cotton harvest. Germany.

World Bank (WB). (2020a). Cotton-Textile Clusters in Uzbekistan: Status and Outlook. Policy Dialogue on Agriculture Modernization in Uzbekistan. Washington, DC.

WB, (2020b). Cotton Pricing after 2020. Cotton Sector Reform in Uzbekistan. Policy Dialogue on Agriculture Modernization in Uzbekistan. Washington, DC.

Yusupov, Y. (2019). The Agricultural Sector of Uzbekistan: Features, Key Problems, the Need for Reforms. Central Asian Bureau for Analytical Reporting (CABAR). March 25, 2019  

Zorya, S., Babaev, S. and Abdulhamid, A. (2019a). Uzbekistan: Agriculture Public Expenditure Review, World Bank.

Zorya, S., Djanibekov, N., & Petrick, M. (2019). Farm Restructuring in Uzbekistan: How Did It Go and What is Next? World Bank Working Paper.

cotton clusters, cotton deregulation, liberalization, privatization, supply chain