Helmand watermelon farmers complain of losses
LASHKARGAH (Pajhwok): Farmers in southern Helmand province on Tuesday complained they incurred losses in watermelons due to a disorganised market and demand for bribes by municipality officials.
Abdul Bari, a farmer from Nawa district, told Pajhwok Afghan News his watermelon crop had already been affected by squash bugs while several people in the market demanded money and share in income under various pretexts.
He said there existed a number of powerful individuals in the watermelon market and they did not allow farmers to sell their produce to buyers from Kabul on their own. He said the Municipality charged farmers with heavy money as tax.
Another grower from the same district, Haji Shamir, criticised the government for failing to construct a separate marketplace for watermelons and serving farmers’ interests.
He said in the absence of a government-run market, they had to take their produce to a privately-run marker where they were not allowed to trade independently. He did name anyone.
Mohammad Wali, a farmer from the Karez area of Lashkargah, made similar complaints and said he sold five tonnes of watermelons for 11,000 Pakistani rupees.
From that amount he paid more than Rs2, 000 to the market owner and as many to Municipality officials and for transport and other expenses. He said he could not make profit after paying these expenses.
Prices control official at the municipality, Noor Mohammad, said they charged 270 afghanis each vehicle carrying watermelons in return for the municipality’s services. He added legally they could not interfere in open market affairs, but they could act on complaints.
Farmers in Garmasir and Nawa districts prefer growing watermelons and other food crops instead of poppies. Around 300 vehicles carrying watermelons come to Lashkargah on a daily basis from the two districts.
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