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    Kandahar farmers happy over high grape yield

    KANDAHAR CITY (PAN): Grapes production in southern Kandahar province is experiencing a high output this season, with prices soaring despite limited export facilities, say orchard owners and fruit merchants.

    The Kandahar chapter of the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries said 140 trucks of grapes had been exported to neighbouring Pakistan so far.

    “Not only has the production in our town increased, grape yield in other districts is also high and prices have gone up,” said Haji Abdul Qayyum -- an orchard owner from the Pashmol area of Zheri district.

    Qayyum is happy that his fruits would ripen over the next few days and his orchard was bearing a good quantity of grapes.

    Last year’s harvest was affected by clashes during the ripening season, recalled a resident of the Zangabad area of Panjwai district. But Haji Baran acknowledged: “There is a high grape yield this year. Clashes have reduced in the districts where workers and traders can easily travel.”

    He sold 4.5 kilograms of grapes between 300 and 350 afs in the local bazaar.

    There production level had improved due to favorable weather conditions and good advice from agriculture experts to farmers, Director of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock Ahmad Shah Roshan said.

    Provincial head of Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries Nasrullah Zaheer said they had dispatched 140 grapes-laden trucks to Pakistan over the past 15 days. Each truck carried eight to 10 tonnes of grapes.

    “A crate of Kandahari grapes is priced between Rs 3,000 (1,618 afs) and Rs 3, 500 in Pakistan,” he said, slamming the government for not providing adequate transportation facilities to exporters.

    Afghanistan has signed an agreement with Pakistan, allowing Afghan traders to take their products to the Wagah border near Lahore. But the accord was yet to be implemented, he complained. If the deal was enforced, fruit exports would see a boost, he hoped.

    “When we export fruits to Pakistan, trucks are thrice loaded and unloaded and this affects the quality and quality of fruits. Hot weather damages fruits and sometimes five or six cartons are stolen by local soldiers or workers,” alleged Zaheer.

    He asked the government to provide proper transportation for traders to exports their fruits from Kandahar to the Wagah border. Last year, Afghan traders exported grapes to Dubai but the airfare and taxes were too high.

    Flights from Kandahar International Airport had doubled this year and many aircraft would transport fruits to foreign countries, said the head of the airport, Ahmadullah Faizi.

    There are plans to construct a cold storage facility at the airport at a cost of id="mce_marker"20,000, with a capacity of storing 70 tonnes of fruits, with financial support from the United States Agency for International Development.

    myn/vp/mud



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