April 23, 2020 / 7:32 AM / a month ago

Tajik leader urges farmers to delay Ramadan fast

FILE PHOTO: Tajikistan President Emomali Rakhmon attends the 'Dialogue of Emerging Market and Developing Countries' on the sideline of the 2017 BRICS Summit in Xiamen, Fujian province, China, 05 September 2017.REUTERS/Wu Hong/Pool

DUSHANBE (Reuters) - Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon urged local farmers on Thursday to delay fasting for Ramadan so they can stay healthy and productive during the coronavirus pandemic.

Muslims around the world fast during day throughout the month of Ramadan, which begins on Thursday this year. Those who can’t fast because they’re ill are allowed to catch up later in the year.

Tajikistan has reported no coronavirus cases, but it has closed its borders and taken other steps to keep Covid-19 from spreading. That includes closing mosques.

In an address to Muslims, who make up the vast majority of the Tajik population, Rakhmon said that ensuring public health and food security was a valid reason to put off fasting.

“I urge everyone working in the fields ... in the name of their health and that of their families, ensuring their households’ welfare, to use this dispensation and delay the fast until a more favourable time,” Rakhmon said.

The former Soviet republic of 9 million has asked the International Monetary Fund and other donors for emergency aid to offset the impact of global recession on its economy.

Tajikistan imports some key food, such as wheat, and one of its suppliers, Kazakhstan, has already introduced quotas to limit exports.

Tajikistan is also likely to have much less hard currency to pay for imports, because Tajiks working in Russia are sending less money home.

Reporting by Nazarali Pirnazarov, writing by Olzhas Auyezov, editing by Larry King

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