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The viticulture and winemaking sector is one of the most promising in the country’s agriculture. Therefore, it is not unexpected that on November 23, 2018, at the General Assembly of the International Organization of Vine and Wine in the city of Punta del Este (Uruguay), Uzbekistan’s membership in this organization was officially announced.
Our interview today is with the Director General of the OIV, Mr. Pau ROCA, who the Editorial Board of the magazine has known for many years. The interview focused on the issues of realizing the potential of the domestic industry and solving existing organizational and systemic problems, the assessment of the prospects for implementing a generally accepted system of classification and labeling of wines, etc. The text of this conversation is offered to your attention.
– Mr. Roca, this issue of the magazine will be focused on highlighting the directions of development of agriculture in Uzbekistan. So we want to get expert opinions on relevant issues of the agricultural sector. Thank you for taking the time to talk to us. The OIV Awards ceremony was recently held. Can you tell our readers about it?
– Yes, this is an annual award, usually awarded to print publications dedicated to viticulture and winemaking, but this year the winner was also a website, which is natural, because we live in the age of digital technologies. This award has several nominations.
– Once we touched upon the topic of digitalization. In Uzbekistan, 2020 has been declared the Year of Development of Science, Education and Digital Economy. Has your organization adopted its own digital transformation strategy?
– Yes, you are right, we have a digitalization strategy until 2024. It is posted on our website. This serves as a kind of driver for the implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. External experts and consultants are involved in its implementation. The strategy has four directions. First, digitalization of daily work and work processes. Secondly, digital analysis, including our laboratory and interaction with government agencies. The third direction is the creation of a kind of digital hub designed to consolidate information about viticulture and winemaking, post reports on innovations and technology in this area. The fourth direction is a digital “garage”, which includes information about testing of new grape varieties. To implement the strategy, we have allocated funds in the amount of 1.5 million euros, which we plan to use in the next three years.
– Your organization actively cooperates with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization – FAO. What joint projects are you implementing?
– We have two joint projects with the leading agency dealing with the problems of rural development and agricultural production in the UN system. The first project is related to the reduction and stability of the use of pesticides, increasing phytosanitary control of products. Such projects are being implemented in Mexico, Morocco and other countries. The second project concerns the exchange of statistical data in agriculture. And we hope that this process will significantly improve due to the implementation of the digitalization strategy. In the future, another project aimed at reducing the number of products that do not reach the end user due to lack of quality, non-compliance with requirements and standards. Its main goal is to reduce the volume of grapes, and here we are talking about grapes, and not about wine that is not processed, rejected or spoiled during transportation. This project will be implemented jointly with FAO, as one of the most important principles of this organization is poverty reduction.
– Having ratified the agreement with your organization, Uzbekistan aims to develop viticulture and winemaking at an accelerated pace. What joint projects are being implemented with Uzbekistan?
– Yes, we had an important project planned. This is the organization and holding of the World Congress of the OIV in Samarkand in 2020. But the global COVID-19 pandemic made its own adjustments — it did not allow us to implement this event on a full scale. Due to the current circumstances, I proposed to organize a symposium with 50-60 representatives, and a letter has already been prepared and sent to the Embassy of Uzbekistan in Paris. We are waiting for response from the Government of Uzbekistan. It is a pity that we were not able to hold a Congress with the participation of 750 specialists, which, of course, became impossible in the context of the coronavirus. I would like experts to come to the symposium as an alternative to the one I proposed, so that we could discuss topical issues, visit vineyards, and give recommendations. That would be very good. Now we are waiting for a response from the Uzbek side.
– Continuing the topic of coronavirus, how has the pandemic affected the industry on a global scale? Has it led to an increase or decrease in demand, an increase in prices for viticulture and winemaking products?
– Yes, in fact, the industry has suffered significant losses. In almost all countries, due to lockdown, restrictive measures were introduced, bars and restaurants did not work, and the sales figures fell significantly. Speaking of sales, I note that there are three ways to sell wine products to consumers. The first method is the sale of wine in bars and restaurants, where visitors can consume them right on the spot. The second is selling through stores and supermarkets. And finally, the third method is implementation via the Internet or home delivery. So, in the first direction, sales decreased by 50-60 percent. In the second direction, we see an increase of 15-20 %, due to the fact that people were in isolation, could not visit restaurants, so they bought wine in stores. Through the Internet and delivery, sales have increased significantly. As for prices, prices have fallen slightly, by an average of 12-15 percent. In general, the situation is such that the volumes actually decreased by 2.5 % compared to expected.
– The Action Strategy of for the Development of the Republic of Uzbekistan for 2017-2021 provides for the development of intensive viticulture through the cultivation of high-yielding, early-ripening dwarf and semi-dwarf vineyards. It is envisaged that every year 10 % of the available low-profit vineyards (which is 14.1 thousand hectares) will be transferred to intensive methods of modern agricultural technologies, and it is expected that their yield will increase up to 4 times. Can you give your assessment of the measures envisaged, and what trends can you name in modern technical viticulture?