Is Turkmenistan Facing Threat of Famine? Proof of Address Required to Buy Basic Foodstuffs in Many Regions

Turkmenistan’s southern region of Mary has followed Lebap, Dashoguz, and Balkan regions by selling foodstuffs in state shops according to residence registration. For several days now shoppers in Mary have had to show proof of residence to buy vegetable oil and flour.

State grocery store No. 76 in Mary reported previously about the sale of scarce goods according to residence registration in Lebap and several districts in Dashoguz and Balkan. In Garabogaz, in the west of the country, residence registration and vouchers are needed to withdraw cash from ATMs as well as to buy groceries, otherwise there is not enough to go round. Similar reports are coming in from the city of Balkanabat, the region’s administrative center.

Ahal region and the country’s capital Ashgabat are the last places where goods in short supply can be bought in any shop, though the lines are long. reported recently on the noise levels endured every morning by people who live near state shops.

“At least you can now buy local Ahal cottonseed oil and Russian Zolotaya Korona sunflower oil in the shop once a week without pushing and shoving. You just have to show a certificate from the local housing office,” a source in Mary told “Though I don’t see how this system squares with the Epoch of Might and Happiness,” he added, referring to the government’s name for the current period in Turkmenistan.

Sources from different regions in Turkmenistan say the sale of goods according to residence registration has been introduced to stamp out profiteering. Previously, people used to be able to buy goods in short supply without restrictions at the state price and then sell them on to commercial shops with a small mark-up. For many residents in Dashoguz, Balkan, Lebap, and even Ashgabat itself, this kind of profiteering was their main source of income.

There has been a food crisis in Turkmenistan for several years now. Because of the local population’s low standard of living people prefer to buy basic foodstuffs in the state shops, where prices are lower than the market price. Lines regularly form outside these stores to buy chicken, vegetable oil, eggs, and sugar. Every shopper is restricted in the quantity of foodstuffs they can buy. Following the closure of the border with Iran many goods have disappeared from sale altogether or shot up in price.