The cost of living in Central Asia is on the rise, as it is around the world. COVID-19, severe droughts, supply issues caused by the pandemic, and, most recently, the war in Ukraine have all contributed to this.
For months, there have been reports of shortages and rising prices for basic foodstuffs such as flour, rice, vegetable oil, sugar and, in some parts, carrots and onions. And it’s not just food that’s getting more expensive. As well as fuel, electricity, gas and everything else.
This inflation, of course, hits the most vulnerable in lower-middle-income countries dependent on remittances and imports.
For example, in Uzbekistan, where the government calculates a so-called “pilaf index” to measure the cost of living, the average price of a serving of this traditional dish in Tashkent has risen nearly 70 percent, or a dollar, since December 2019. This is a significant increase, given that the average salary in the country is approximately $300.
Live on June 16 hosted by RFE/RL, I spoke with Muslim Buriev, independent researcher, resident of Dushanbe, and Sumsarbek Mamyraliev, restaurant owner in Bishkek, about how inflation affected them and what they had to give up or take up to cut your costs.
Sumsarbek Mamyraliev: “If we can’t find any ingredients, we just don’t sell the dish because it’s Thai food. I can’t replace anything. Ginger has risen in price from 180 soms per kilogram to 2700. It has risen in price to 1100 soms. Previously, one egg cost 4 soms, and now 11. Meat is very expensive. We used flour from Ukraine before, and it was the best flour that could be obtained, except for Italian flour, which is five times more expensive. It’s not on the market right now.”
“We used to be just a restaurant. Now, in order to survive, we are engaged in catering, participating in various culinary festivals. I rent the second floor to companies and international organizations for various events.”
Muslim Buriev: “Prices for individual products have skyrocketed. For example, flour has risen in price by 30 percent. At the beginning of this year, we bought a 50-kilogram bag – and we usually buy flour in such quantities to save a little – for $ 28. Now it costs $35. The median income in Tajikistan is around $150, so that’s a pretty substantial amount.”
“There is a small restaurant not far from where I work. I used to go there for lunch, but now I decided not to because lunch prices have gone up by about 25 percent and some items have been taken off the menu. The cost of food delivery has also doubled since the beginning of the war in Ukraine. So sometimes I bring food to work from home and eat at work. And I have become less likely to use taxis, because gasoline prices have risen, and taxi services have risen in price. I use public I get to work on two buses. It takes longer, but it’s cheaper.”
Listen to the full conversation here:
Read more about this at RFE/RL:
War in Ukraine causes global food shortage Central Asian neighbors
Feel the pain as Kazakhstan suspends wheat and flour exports
Economic downturn in Russia causes difficulties in Kyrgyzstan
Hungry summer coming to Central Asia?
Heat wave and drought in Central Asia lead to water shortages and crop failures
To follow @RFERL on Twitter so as not to miss our regular talks about life and social changes in Central Asia every Thursday at 15:00 in Prague/9:00 in Washington (19:00 local time in Bishkek/Almaty/Astana and 18:00 local time in Tashkent /Dushanbe/ Ashgabat).