“Along with the strategic partnership between our two nations, the United States remains committed to assisting Uzbekistan in meeting its food needs and improving food security for its people,” said Veneman, whose comments were relayed to reporters in the United States.

“Our meetings today gave me an opportunity to discuss our common interests, ideas for continued cooperation and the importance of progress on political and economic reforms.”

Veneman announced USDA would provide a grant of 2,500 tons of nonfat dry milk to the government of Uzbekistan for fiscal year 2004. She said that discussions between the two countries concerning fiscal year 2004 assistance were ongoing, and that USDA would continue to work with Uzbekistan in providing assistance.

During fiscal year 2003, USDA provided $26 million in food assistance, including $11 million in powdered milk and $15 million in rice and vegetable oil to be delivered early next year. Donations of nonfat dry milk were used for a school-feeding program to improve nutrition and attendance among children, and some of the milk was also sold to provide technical assistance to the dairy industry.

Veneman said the soybean oil and rice will be used to support agricultural restructuring, development of markets and rural extension, improved water management and food safety policies.

While in Samarkand, she also met with recent participants in USDA’s Cochran Fellowship Program and talked about the future of technical assistance efforts. Veneman said USDA provided short-term agricultural and business training under the Cochran Fellowship Program to seven Uzbeks this past year and to 146 in the past decade. The Cochran Fellows that met with Secretary Veneman today recently completed a World Trade Organization training course in the United States.

In terms of food security, Veneman said USDA is also committed to helping developing countries improve their own productivity and economic growth through the use of science and technology in a supportive policy environment. That was the goal of the Ministerial Conference and Expo on Agricultural Science and Technology she hosted in Sacramento, Calif., last June.

Two Ministerial participants from Uzbekistan met with Secretary Veneman while she was in Samarkand.

Veneman talked about USDA’s other efforts in Uzbekistan, such as the Faculty Exchange Program, which brings university educators to the United States for six months to help them develop market-oriented academic curricula and programs. Three Uzbek faculty members each participated in the 2003 and 2002 programs.

USDA’s Agricultural Linkage Program with Uzbekistan supports collaborative agricultural research and technology transfer activities with local currency funds generated from sales of U.S. food aid commodities in Uzbekistan. Funds from monetized food assistance are supporting 21 new research projects in 2003 to promote sustainable agricultural systems to assure safe and adequate food supplies in Uzbekistan.

e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com