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Cablegate: Turkmenistan Imports Eggs Before Chickens

VZCZCXRO7713
RR RUEHDBU RUEHLN RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHAH #0953/01 2550603
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 120603Z SEP 06
FM AMEMBASSY ASHGABAT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7783
INFO RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA 2566
RUEHNT/AMEMBASSY TASHKENT 4975
RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE 1677
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO 1278
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 1195
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0393
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC//DHO-2/REA/NMJIC-J2//
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC//J5/RUE//
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RHMFIUU/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL//CCJ2/HSE/CCJ5//

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ASHGABAT 000953

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

FOR SCA/CEN (PERRY)
ANKARA FOR AGRICULTURE COUNSELOR RALPH GIFFORD
TASHKENT FOR ESTH (PUTNAM)

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAGR ETRD PGOV KFLU TX
SUBJECT: Turkmenistan Imports Eggs Before Chickens

Ref: Ashgabat 620

Summary
-------

1. (SBU) The largest private poultry producer in Turkmenistan, Altyn
Hilal, resumed direct market sales of chicken at local markets on
September 5, after an involuntary five-month hiatus. The
government's covert January 22 ban on imported poultry products had
forced Altyn Hilal company owner Ahmet Charyev to close his poultry
farm because he was prohibited from importing chicken eggs from Iran
(reftel). The government's quiet decision allowing Charyev to
resume egg importation is a desperate attempt to relieve demand
pressure in the local market where, reportedly, the last reserves of
imported U.S. chicken quarters are dwindling, no full roasters have
been available for months, and prices have been rising. End
Summary.

Domestic Poultry Meat Back in the Market
----------------------------------------

2. (SBU) During a September 5 meeting with Poloff, Altyn Hilal's
Charyev confirmed that unlabelled roasters seen in the local bazaars
by embassy staff were from Hilal. Government authorities decided to
allow Altyn Hilal to import eggs from Iran in July (reftel), but
still kept the ban on imported chicken. Charyev said that prior to
getting the requisite State Veterinary Service (SVS) certification
to allow open sales of his product he had sold to restaurants and
cafes in unlabeled packages, because these businesses were not
likely to be checked for proper certification. He complained that
many of the "restaurant" proprietors had chosen to resell his
unlabelled product to retailers. Foreign Economic Relations
Department Chief at the Ministry of Trade Annamuhammet Weliyev told
Pol Asst on August 30 that Altyn Hilal was supplying 20 tons of
poultry meat to the market every day, which he claimed was "enough
to meet the demand." Weliyev did not volunteer that this business
was being conducted without SVS certification.

3. (SBU) Charyev confirmed rumors that retail chicken was becoming
scarce and told Poloff that "the certification process for this
batch of chicken was quick because the authorities are interested in
increasing poultry supply to maintain low prices." Charyev reported
that Altyn Hilal sells 15 tons of poultry meat per day for 47,000
manats (approximately $2.00 using the unofficial exchange rate of
23,800 to the dollar) per kilo, but acknowledged that his current
supply would be exhausted in several days. His product is retailing
at the bazaars for 65,000 manats/kilo and at the private Turkish
supermarket Yimpas for 56,000 manats/kilo. (Note: The government
regulates the price of meat. Chicken quarters previously sold for
37,000 manats/kilo; whole chickens sold for 45,000 manats/kilo. End
Note.)

Imported Bush Legs Banned
-------------------------

4. (SBU) The Ministry of Trade's Weliyev reported that imported
poultry products are still banned for fear of bird flu from abroad.
He confirmed that imported poultry meat has been banned for months,
and explained that "there are some Bush legs (chicken quarters)
still available at the market, but they are expensive, close to
their expiration dates and have been refrozen several times, which
impairs their taste." (Note: Imported roasters from France and
Brazil have not been in the markets for months. End Note.)

Comment
-------

5. (SBU) The government continues to react to fears of the outside
world by banning all foreign imported poultry meat. No empirical
data on Avian Influenza are needed for irrational decision-making.
Officials must have realized the risk of exposing the government's
fears of imported poultry meat if retail chicken supplies were

ASHGABAT 00000953 002 OF 002


completely exhausted. The loss of available chicken and the higher
prices will not inspire local protests from Turkmenistan citizens,
although the expatriate community could suffer from the loss.
However, disclosure of the government's inability to manage the
local meat supply could prove problematic for several ministries
with responsibility for maintaining President Niyazov's implicit
social contract to keep sufficient foodstuffs available at low
prices to mollify the population. End Comment.

BRUSH

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