Turkmenistan has further tightened the rationing of basic foodstuffs at subsidized prices, introducing special registration books to track purchases at state stores.
An RFE/RL local correspondent reported that under the system, each household will receive a school notebook with a certificate inside from a neighborhood committee stating the number of people in the family and its address.
Each purchase conducted by a household in state-owned stores will be registered in the book, according to the independent Turkmen.news website.
An RFE/RL correspondent in the western province of Balkan reported on June 11 that the registration books were introduced in recent days in several cities in the region, including its capital, Balkanabat.
Those who don't have a book aren't allowed to purchase some of the subsidized staples available in government stores, including flour, rice, cooking oil, sugar, and potatoes, the correspondent said.
Tightly controlled Turkmenistan has been facing food price hikes and a food shortage in recent years.
Food supplies are still available in bazaars and private stores for increasingly high prices, but many ordinary Turkmen can't afford them.
Many people rely on state-owned shops, where staples are sold with subsidized prices, but the choice of foodstuffs there is sparse and supplies often arrive in limited amounts.
Although the authorities insist there have been no coronavirus cases in Turkmenistan so far, they have imposed restrictions that have further curtailed food distribution in the country.
Those measures included the closure of border crossings and roads inside the country, as well as restrictions on food imports from neighboring countries.
Food shortages sparked a rare public protest in the southeastern province of Mary on April 3, when about 30 women briefly blocked a major highway before marching toward the regional government headquarters.
The demonstrators stopped their march when local officials promised them each 2 kilograms of flour.
Turkmenistan's secretive, authoritarian government, which controls all media in the country, never mentions food shortages or any other sign of economic hardship in the country.