The next time you buy dried fruit in the United States, you may be buying apricots or plums grown by smallholder farmers in Kyrgyzstan.
In October, the USAID Agro Horizon project and an enterprise it helped create, Altyn Aimak, signed a contract with a private sector partner, Yudo Heifitz, of Heifitz Sons Corporation, to supply $1 million-worth of dried fruit to the United States.
In the past, farmers in Kyrgyzstan had to send their dried fruit to Tajikistan for processing before it could be exported to Russia, Turkey, or elsewhere. Altyn Aimak formed as a joint venture between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, allowing Kyrgyz farmers to process and export dried fruit directly from their own country.
The USAID Agro Horizon project, implemented by ACDI/VOCA, supported Altyn Aimak when it built a facility for processing dried fruit in the village of Chetkyzyl in Krygyzstan’s Batken Region, making the dried fruit sector sustainable moving forward. Some of that support came in the form of $87,000, which was used to buy washing, sorting, and grading equipment and Helios dryers. This funding also helped leverage the $650,000 that Altyn Aimak invested.
With the facility up and running, the new contract to supply $1 million-worth of dried fruit to the United States will extend through 2018. It began in November with a one-ton trial shipment, which successfully met the buyer’s quality standards. Now Altyn Aimak is preparing to send another 22 tons of dried apricots, apples, plums and raisins worth $150,000 at the start of the year.
The USAID Agro Horizon project, which targets the Osh, Jalal-Abad, Batken, and Naryn regions, is one of many economic growth initiatives funded by USAID to boost employment and strengthen business opportunities in Kyrgyzstan. The results from the new contract will benefit 400 households and create 35 full-time jobs for local Kyrgyz farmers.