Between June 2022 and July 2023, CRDF Global has implemented the USAID-funded Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Program by identifying US agriculture experts to assist Uzbek horticulture agribusinesses with pain points in production, processing, and exporting products. One of the host agribusinesses, Metin LLC, is a leading producer and exporter of a variety of fruits and vegetables, specifically stone fruits, located in the Samarkand region of Uzbekistan. In recent years, they have also started to venture into the freezing and drying of fruits and vegetables.
With this expansion, Metin LLC is targeting new markets for their products, particularly in Europe and the U.S. Despite their ambitions, they are facing challenges related to entering new markets and optimizing their production. Mr. Ravshan Karimov is Metin’s innovative business manager and was eager to learn from US experts in all aspects of agriculture. Over the course of one month, Mr. Karimov welcomed three F2F volunteers to collaborate on solutions to concerns and support sustainable improvement and growth to the organization.
The first of these volunteers was Dr. Ariana Torres, an Associate Professor in the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture at Purdue University. During her time in Samarkand, Dr. Torres identified several roadblocks to Metin’s success, including unfamiliarity with new market standards, access, and requirements. She delivered eight workshops pulled from her Market Readiness Program to the employees of Metin, along with two additional workshops delivered to The Samarkand Medicine University and the Tashkent State Agricultural University.
In response to the problems she identified, Dr. Torres provided Metin with a list of recommendations on both market access and decision-making at the close of her assignment. Two of those recommendations are already underway. In order to understand the business cycle of horticulture production, processing, and export, Metin is drafting a plan to consider the seasonal supply and demand for more stable, year-round income. Additionally, they have already begun looking into local options for packing materials to support export activities.
Dr. Kevin Mis Solval, Assistant Professor of Food Process Engineering in the Department of Food Science and Technology at the University of Georgia, was later assigned to assist Metin regarding horticulture production, processing, and storage. While working with Metin, Dr. Mis Solval identified three major problems related to their current production operations: a lack of knowledge of new technologies, insufficient technical training, and a need for improved food safety practices.
To address these concerns, Dr. Mis Solval delivered nine presentations to 19 members of Metin’s staff , focused on modern technologies used for producing, handling, and processing fresh produce. Already Metin has taken action on Dr. Mis Solval’s recommendations. In order to improve food safety, a key milestone for expanding into high value markets such as the US and EU, Metin has conducted a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) analysis of products at the facility and established a team that will manage HACCP plans and analyses in the future. The company has also prioritized recordkeeping of food safety activities.
Concurrent with Dr. Mis Solval’s two-week volunteer assignment, Mr. Ralph Bucca began his work with Metin. Mr. Bucca is a seasoned F2F Volunteer, supporting agriculture enterprises around the world using his expertise in accessible processing technology and grape production. At Metin, Mr. Bucca provided expertise on grape production and vineyard management. Through his analysis, he observed that Metin had little knowledge and experience with the growing, harvesting, and storage of fresh table grapes, which often resulted in their spoilage before export.
After identifying this problem, Mr. Bucca delivered several presentations and held multiple meetings with the company’s personnel, along with lectures at two local universities, to provide guidance and training related to grape production and post-harvesting handling. At the end of his assignment, Mr. Bucca provided a series of recommendations to Metin on the physical, chemical, biological, storage, and packing components of growing table grapes that will lead to improved production and storage shelf-life for export.
“Thanks to the expertise of volunteers we received, not only has the management benefited, but also the knowledge of each staff member on improving practices.” – Mr. Ravshan Karimov
Implementation of the recommendations made by all three volunteers, Dr. Torres, Dr. Mis Solval, and Mr. Bucca, will provide Metin LLC with the opportunity to optimize production and expand exportation to new markets. The suggestions and training by Dr. Mis Solval and Mr. Bucca will help to decrease yield loss and improve food safety and quality. Additionally, Dr. Torres’ recommendations will help Metin to improve their marketing strategies and reach international markets over time.