Uzbekistan's rivers and many irrigation canals furnish water for the cotton crop, the country's main export. Large quantities of rice also come from Uzbekistan (notably from the Zeravshan valley). Other crops include cereals, fruits, vegetables, alfalfa, wine grapes, sesame, tobacco, and sugarcane. There is extensive use of irrigation for farming, but the diversion of water for irrigation from the tributaries of the Aral Sea is drying up the sea and reducing the flow of freshwater in the region. Livestock are raised in the more arid western areas; Uzbekistan also produces Karakul sheep pelts. Cotton, silk, and wool provide the basis for Uzbekistan's extensive textile industry. Traditional crafts such as silk dying and carpet weaving, discouraged under Soviet rule, have enjoyed a renaissance since independence.
Industrialization increased after the transfer during World War II of many industries from European Russia to the less vulnerable Uzbek region. Food processing, machine building, metallurgy, and the manufacture of textiles, chemicals, fertilizer, and building materials are leading industries. Uzbekistan has more than 20 hydroelectric power plants. The Trans-Caspian RR and the Great Uzbek Highway are the republic's main transportation routes.
Uzbekistan is rich in mineral resources. The Fergana Valley, an important cotton, silk, and wine region, is also the site of oil fields. Western Uzbekistan has large natural-gas deposits. Gold, coal, lead, zinc, copper, tungsten, molybdenum, fluorspar, and uranium are also found. Remittances from citizens working abroad, especially in Kazakhstan and Russia, are also important to the economy. Government corruption is a significant problem; it has resulted in losses for foreign firms investing in Uzbekistan.
Cotton, gold, natural gas, oil, fertilizers, metals, textiles, food products, machinery, and automobiles are the major exports. Imports include machinery and equipment, foodstuffs, chemicals, and metals. The main trading partners are Russia, China, South Korea, Kazakhstan, and Turkey.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.