Afghanistan imports 68pc of dairy products
Thirty years ago, Afghanistan produced enough milk to meet local need but this capacity dwindled due to decades of war, Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock official Mohibullah Halimi said.
In an interview with Pajhwok Afghan News, he said the ministry welcomed help from donors in promoting the agriculture sector. So far, five dairy associations, comprised of 49 farmer cooperatives, have been set up across the country.
Each association had been paid $4 to $6 million to provide seeds to farmers and buy milk from them, he said, adding the associations prepared animal feed from maize, barley, cotton cake and other items and sold them to livestock farmers.
Several factories, including the Paiman Ice Cream, Herat Ice Cream, Baghlan Dairy, Afghan Dairy and Watani Dairy, were manufacturing dairy products, he pointed out. The factories and associations produce 1.7 million tonnes of products such as milk, butter, yogurt, milk cream, etc. But the country needs 7 million tonnes of dairy products a year.
“Our main problems include fund paucity and insecurity in remote areas. Many people were reluctant to invest in this sector because insecurity,” Halimi remarked, saying the ministry planned to create a dairy federation to conduct research programmes on how to improve the quality and quantity of local products.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) assisted the Kabul Dairy Association with processing machinery worth $250,000, said the association head, Ghulam Zakria Ahmadzai. The agriculture ministry had failed to take enough measures to facilitate the industry, he complained.
Ahmadzai said their factory was operating in a building of the ministry in the Gozargah area of Kabul without paying any rent. “Our products expire in a week. The government could help us with more investment in this regard.”
The authorities should pay farmers small loans and arrange programmes on animal breeding and feed, in addition to encouraging investment in the sector, suggested Associate Professor of Agriculture at Kabul University Gul Mohammad Azhir.
“It is not necessary to bring everything from the US. The agriculture ministry should import highly productive cows from neighbouring Iran, Pakistan and Tajikistan,” he opined.
About the security challenge to agriculture development in some provinces, the expert said: “I haven’t seen enough dairy products made in secure areas as well.” One of the ministry’s failures was its inability to accord animal husbandry priority, he believed.
“It is a shame for Afghanistan to import chicken eggs from Turkmenistan, India, Iran and Pakistan,” he teacher continued.
Another associate professor, Nisar Ahmad Kohistani, accused the ministry of having no effective agriculture promotion strategy. “Even if the ministry evolves a good strategy, it could not implement that due to corruption.”
The professors thought if the authorities implemented infrastructure development projects in the agriculture sector, not only the country would become self-sufficient in dairy products, it would also start exporting the items.
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