TASHKENT -- Uzbek municipal authorities have prohibited the sale of watermelons and other melons in bazaars located in the capital, Tashkent, RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reports.
A vendor at Tashkent's Eski Juva bazaar told RFE/RL on condition of anonymity that because of the ban people are offering those fruits for sale on the side of the roads leading to the bazaars.
Askiya, a vendor at another Tashkent bazaar, told RFE/RL that there is an official edict banning the sale of watermelons and melons inside the market.
He said they are currently selling melons at specially designated locations outside the bazaar.
Sellers from seven other bazaars in the Uzbek capital confirmed to RFE/RL that they cannot sell watermelons and melons on the bazaar premises.
An official at the Kuylik bazaar told RFE/RL he does not know the reason for the ban. He said they are complying with a decree issued by the Tashkent city mayor, according to which melons and watermelons can be sold only at specially allocated locations.
Ravshan Inogamov, the deputy head of the Tashbozorsavdo Association, responsible for more than 20 bazaars in Tashkent, told RFE/RL he cannot divulge the reasons for the ban.
Other municipal and regional authorities similarly refused to comment when contacted by RFE/RL.
Some bazaar workers suggest the reason is a registered excess of chemicals that was found in watermelons and melons.
A doctor at a Tashkent hospital specializing in infectious diseases told RFE/RL that the number of people hospitalized with food poisoning after eating watermelons and melons has recently increased.
But Tashkent's sanitary and epidemiological office denied any connection between the increased number of poisonings and the ban imposed by authorities.
Most watermelons cost between one and two dollars depending on the size, while melons are slightly cheaper. The fruits are a staple food for Central Asians during the warm-weather months.
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