With consumer demand for organic foods on the rise, FAO is working with Central Asian countries to develop their capacities for organic agriculture. A three-day international conference on the topic opens here today, with leading experts and other players taking part.

Organized by Uzbekistan’s Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources in cooperation with FAO, the conference is designed to promote exchange of experiences and discussion of local practices and modern technologies. Fostering cooperation among Central Asian countries on organic production issues is another objective.

The event brings together scientists and technical experts working on organic agriculture in Europe, Turkey, Central Asia, and other countries. After two days of theoretical sessions in Tashkent, conference participants will make a study trip to Samarkand.

“Organic agriculture is one of the main areas of FAO’s activities in the region,” said FAO agriculture officer Hafiz Muminjanov. “The FAO ‘Save and Grow’ paradigm aims to increase productivity with fewer and more environmentally friendly inputs and appropriate methods. This conference will help make organic agriculture more performant and sustainable – in Central Asia and beyond.”

Farming with natural fertilizers to produce ecologically clean vegetables and fruits is traditional in Uzbekistan and neighbouring countries. These centuries-old practices offer good potential for developing organic production in the region, Muminjanov said.

“The market research company Organic Monitor estimates that the global market for organic food in 2015 reached US$ 81.6 billion,” he added, “with most markets registering two-digit growth rates.”

This week’s conference will also examine constraints to increasing organic production, as well as the institutional and legal requirements. It will also raise awareness of how organic agriculture could have an impact on rural development and trade for Central Asian countries.

Participating in the event are representatives of Ministries of agriculture, economy, trade and standardization and environment, institutions responsible for organic production, research and academic institutions, exporters and importers, farmers associations, agro-industry, and certification bodies.

FAO currently is working with Uzbekistan’s Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources to develop organic farming and build capacity in related institutions. Technical support is being provided for the formulation of laws, regulations and standards, and to enhance knowledge and capacity among farmers, researchers, extension specialists and policymakers.