Grape exports from Kandahar set to soar this year
KANDAHAR CITY (Pajhwok): Fresh fruit businessmen in southern Kanadahar province expect higher grape harvest this year, hoping to export 40,000 tonnes worth millions of dollars.
Although the harvest of grapes was yet to gain momentum, around 50 tonnes of the fruit was exported to Pakistan from Kandahar on a daily basis, Haji Nanai Agha, Fresh Fruit Dealers Association (FFDA) head, told Pajhwok Afghan News. Compared to 2015 there were fewer natural disasters this year.
He said currently 50 tonnes of grapes were being exported to Pakistan and the quantity could jump to 150 tonnes within a few days when the harvest season would reach its peak.
He believed over 20,000 tonnes of grapes might be sold abroad this year.
Fresh fruits are largely exported through Pakistan, but traders expect a new window of export opportunity with the launch of trade activities at Chabahar Port.
Afghanistan fruits havea good market in Asia and Europe, but there are no facilities to transfer them.
Subsequently, the Afghan merchants had to rely heavily on Pakistan, according to FFDA head,who revealed 20,000 tonnes of grapeexports were registered while 20,000 tonnes went abroad without registration. He put the value of the total exportsat $10 million.
The neighbouring country often created huge hurdles for Afghan exporters, inflicting huge losseson them, Agha alleged, saying that Pakistan’s diplomatic missions had assured them of more facilities. In addition, they pledged to closethe main gates for sometime for travellers so that trucks could cross the borders without interruption.
Haji Roohullah, a fresh fruit merchant, also complained of Pakistani officials’ attitude toward Afghanistan’s fresh fruit exporters. He viewed the Chabahar port as a golden opportunity for Afghan businessmen to swiftly move their goods and services across borders.
The Chabahar port is situated near the Persian Gulf on Iranian territory, 700 kilometres from the Afghanistan’s southwestern Nimroz province. The port is economical for Afghan businessmen, particularly fruit exporters.
He explained airlifting of fruits was not economical and the cost of commodities could rise multiple times.He lamented the government had held out promises to provide more facilities for Afghan businessmen and explore new markets but the pledgeswere yet to be honoured.
Orchard owners, meanwhile, urged the government to explore market for their produce. This year’s production of grapes is better, but they may not benefit farmers as the exports are confined to Pakistan and some other countries.
Resident Haji Sarwar called Zherai and Panjwai districts the main grape-producing districts of Kandahar.He said thousands of residents of Kandahar and neighbouring provinces were engaged in harvest in orchards. He demanded the exploration of international markets and facilitation of transporting fruits and other products outside Afghanistan.
Eng. Abdul Baqi Beena, deputy head of the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), said 97 percent of grapeswere exportedto Pakistan and India. A small portion is also sent to the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
He said they were in contact with Iranian authorities to explore waysof fresh fruitexportsfrom Afghanistan via Chabahar port. Last year, Kandahar produced $68 million fresh and dried fruits.
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