Kazakh president hits out over sugar crisis
Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan — Kazakhstan’s president on Thursday blasted his government for its handling of a sugar crisis as shortages and price spikes contributed to chaotic scenes in supermarkets.
Rising living costs since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic have helped fuel unrest in Central Asia, including in the region’s richest country, Kazakhstan, where bloody turmoil in January left 238 people dead.
Ex-Soviet Kazakhstan has also suffered the sharp end of export flow disruptions resulting from Russia’s offensive in Ukraine, with key trade partner Moscow in March banning exports of sugar and grains.
President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev called rushes for sugar in supermarkets “a disgrace” during a government meeting on Thursday and criticized authorities for “a serious miscalculation.”
“The government urgently needs to develop a separate project for the development of the sugar industry,” he said.
“The goal is a significant reduction in import dependence, a gradual transition to self-sufficiency.”
Tokayev also noted that the area sown for sugar beet cultivation had fallen by a third in the last four years.
Sugar prices in the supermarkets of Kazakhstan’s largest city Almaty have almost doubled since the beginning of the year, reaching the equivalent of a dollar for a kilo (2.2-pound) bag.
But sugar at this price quickly sells out, as evidenced by footage of customers competing to buy the bags, while in some shops kilo bags sell for 1,000 tenge ($2.09).
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