Turkmenistan struggles with food crises
Moscow (AsiaNews) - The purchase of food in Turkmenistan remains the basic problem for the vast majority of the population. Bread and chicken legs are the most sought-after products, and compared to a few months ago they can be found more frequently on the counters, but at prohibitive prices.
In the shops of Mary, the country's second largest city, chicken wings are sold at the state fixed price of 16 manat (5 euro) per kilo, and can only be found frozen at the vegetable market on Mollanepes Street, in the basement areas. Only two per person is allowed, and the weight includes the ice poured into the container.
Mary's people queue up every day in front of the market from nightfall to secure the two wings a day, the only meat accessible to families: beef and veal are not even mentioned. In Asghabat, for buying too much bread you can be fined up to 15 manat (4.2 euro); families take turns to queue in various parts of the city.
As some residents of Mary explain in Azattyq, 'it takes at least three people to hold up the queue of chicken wings, I go there with my wife and son, while my 15-year-old daughter waits to buy two portions of bread, the maximum they give you, unless you have to spend two manats for a loaf, then they give you as much as you want'. The state price of a loaf of bread is 0.5 manat and can only be bought in the area of residence, upon presentation of a permit to be registered at the condominium office, which is also subject to a fee.
Permits to buy food, by the way, have also increased recently, and now cost at least 10 manat. To obtain them, one also has to present receipts for payment of other condominium services, unless one pays 20 manat, then one immediately obtains the coveted document.
Very few, however, are able to obtain everything they need with tips and bribes. A family from Mary told how they tried to organise the 'sedak', the traditional thanksgiving meal according to the rules of Islam, for the lucky return of a son from military service: the family members took forced shifts for a week, to collect chicken legs until they had put together almost 14 kilos, to feed all the diners. No family members even tasted the meat, which was all intended for the guests.
There is no comment from the state authorities on the constantly changing conditions of the food supply. A minimum living wage and a sliding scale on foodstuffs remain in place, without statistics on employment and household income being released.
At the beginning of 2002, the minimum wage was set at 1,050 manat (298 euro), the pension at 410 and the unemployment benefit at 390, but those with jobs are forced to donate part of the money for various needs set from above: maintenance work, ecological transition, agriculture, official press, public events and sports competitions.
by Vladimir Rozanskij