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    Paktia growers seek market for dried fruit

    GARDEZ (PAN): Gardeners and dried fruit dealers in southeastern Paktia province have asked the government for help in protecting their plants from diseases and exporting their pine nuts and walnuts.

    When diseases attacked fruit trees, their production fell, a gardener from Zadran district, Ghani Gul, told Pajhwok Afghan News. "Most of forests are cut, but diseases remain there. Now we need government's help."

    Gul believed greater market access could help improve economic conditions of area people, who would be then able to protect forests themselves.

    "All fruit trees are going to vanish if the government does not pay immediate attention to dealing with plant diseases," grower Bismillah said.

    "If the authorities help us, we can export pine nuts and walnuts to foreign countries," said Habibullah, a 27-year-old businessman who brings dried fruits from Janikhel district for sale in Gardez.

    A resident of Sayed Karam district, Hazrat Khan, said people were forced to fell fruit trees due to a lack of market for their products. "If the situation remains unchanged, all trees will be cut and a time will come when people would import dried fruits."

    Director of Agriculture Niaz Mohammad Lali Zadran confirmed the problems facing dried fruit dealers and growers, saying his department lacked funds and resources to stop forest cutting.

    However, he said the issue had been discussed with tribal elders and residents of mountainous areas were taught how to protect trees from diseases.

    Nearly four and a half decades back, Paktia had 350,000 hectares of forested land. Only 10 percent of that is intact today.