The future of success for Tajikistan’s exports lies in added-value products

August 11, 2022
Golden Friut
Photo: UNDP Tajikistan

It all started with a short study visit in the Czech Republic organized for several fruit processing companies from Tajikistan. That was the “Eureka!” moment for Khairullo Rizoev, owner of Mevai Tilloi LLC, processing company from Isfara in the Sughd region of Tajikistan. The Czech company that Khairullo visited, presented a striking resemblance with the family-owned business that he manages back home since 2013 as both are working with the same raw materials – dried fruits and nuts. The only difference was that the Czech counterpart had gone a few steps further by blending and upgrading the raw ingredients into a finished product – the healthy snack bar. This prompted the contemplation “Why cannot we also add value to our dried fruits and nuts and sell them as a finished product under a “Made in Tajikistan” label?”

The idea was actively brewing for a year, the time needed for Khairullo and his team to explore the potential markets and to assess the current capacities and needs to expand production. The support from the UNDP’s Aid for Trade project was there all the way: from organizing the study visit in the Czech Republic, by ensuring that Mevai Tilloi LLC increase productivity along the whole value chain with green and efficient practices, to facilitating access to new markets.  With the introduction of value-added products, Tajik companies increase competitiveness and profit, creating more jobs for the local population, especially for women.

Working on the recipe for success  

With expert support from a food technologist, Mevai Tilloi LLC started testing various recipes for their healthy snack bars. “When the technologist joined to lead the product development process, our only requirement was to create a recipe based exclusively on raw ingredients that we produce or source locally”, Khairullo explains. As a result, 8 types of healthy bar snacks were created, all of them various blends of dried fruits and nuts: prunes, apples, apricots, chestnuts, almonds. Two of the snack bars are 100% organic, with the official certification on the way.

Photo: UNDP Tajikistan

As a result  of this newly opened processing and production line, Mevai Tilloi created 10 new jobs. Local employees, and especially women, have a safe and quality work environment, with good conditions such as free conveyance and food, and support with tuition fee of the employees’ children. Mevai Tilloi also invests in retaining and advancing capacities of employees who have worked there for many years. Take Khadisakhon Abduvohidova, for example, a resident of Isfara. Back in 2015, she decided to take up a job with Mevai Tilloi as a sorter of dried fruits, so that she can join her husband in supporting for her family and provide for education for their four children. Since then, she has managed to progress in her career within the company.

Photo: UNDP Tajikistan

Building strong value chains

While Mevai Tilloi LLC produce part of the ingredients - prunes and apricots - on their own orchards, this accounts for only 10% of the total amount they need to process and sell as final product. Vast majority of the raw quantities are sourced from local farmers, long-standing actors in Mevai Tilloi’s value chain, thus contributing to better livelihoods for local rural communities.

For the peanuts, an integral part of the healthy snack bars, Mevai Tilloi partner with “Ziroatparvaroni Hoji Amirov”, the largest association of peanut producers in Tajikistan. As with majority (about 80%) of the suppliers of Mevai Tilloi, ‘Hoji Amirov’ association are also Global G.A.P. certified, which means they are compliant to international set of standards for good agricultural practices.  GLOBAL G.A.P. is the world's leading farm safety program, aimed to ensure safe and sustainable agricultural production for the benefit of farmers, retailers, and consumers worldwide.

“With UNDP’s support in obtaining the Global G.A.P. certification and new equipment for peanut harvesting and processing, our association now produces almost 34% more, we opened 10 new jobs, and the salaries and income increased by 60% on average” association’s Chairman Mr. Mirahmat Rahmatov shares. “The Global G.A.P. certificate can only bring more production and income for our members because many buyers from developed markets require this certificate”.


The road ahead  

Mevai Tilloi LLC now takes pride in their “unique” recipes for healthy bars with a local zest, emphasizing the importance of protecting and supporting local producers and products, while adding value and promoting them as a finished, shelf-ready product. 
In 2021 which was the first year since the new product was introduced, Mevai Tilloi LLC. exported 15 tones of snack bars to Russia. Not a bad export score for a year known for low harvest and reduced quality caused by freeze damage in blossom season. Already 2022 is a different story – favorable weather conditions have resulted in abundant and high-quality harvest, ticking all the boxes for premium added-value products to be offered domestically and abroad. Following their Aid for Trade facilitated participation at GulfFood expo in Dubai, Mevai Tilloi already provided samples of the healthy bar snacks to a potential buyer from the United Arab Emirates. Meanwhile, they also prepare to acquire the different standards needed to access these markets, including the EU organic certification and the strict Japanese standards on quality and food safety.

Photo: UNDP Tajikistan

The dried raw products or “golden fruits” as Mevai Tilloi translates in Tajik, have been exported to the USA, UAE, Japan, and Russia for many years. But now, by introducing finished, shelf-ready products such as the healthy snack bar, the company will double the profit margin from what they would gain from raw products sales, create higher demand among their whole value chain, and open new decent jobs for the local men and women in Tajikistan’s Sughd region. 
The Aid for Trade project in Central Asia, supports companies such as Mevai Tilloi to produce higher-added value and environmentally sustainable products, and to achieve higher productivity and export readiness within their value chains with innovative and green technologies and production practices. UNDP’s activities are carried out in accordance with the National Development Strategy of the Republic of Tajikistan for the period up to 2030, with focus on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the UN Member States.

The Aid for Trade project is implemented since 2009, supporting the governments and private sector in Central Asia in improving productive capacities and creating decent jobs. In its Phase IV, implemented during 2018-2022, the Aid for Trade project in Tajikistan focused on supporting the country in promoting inclusive and sustainable growth patterns in rural areas and within green productive sectors and creating decent jobs. The project is funded by the Government of Finland.