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The Killid Group
Bountiful Fruits, No MarketsWritten by Ahmad Masood Nikzad
Sunday, 14 August 2011 10:04
Fruit production has gone up this year say officials in the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock. Frustrated fruit growers say the abundant fruits will rot unless a market is found for them.
Abdul Ghafar, 48, a resident of Arghandab district in Kandahar, says his fruit crops have doubled since last year. "We grow lots of melons, pomegranates and grapes. We did not sell anything. It wasn't like this last year."
The "government should find markets for our fruits," he says. "There are fruits now, but there is no market."
Musa Khan, 35, a resident of Gerishk district of Helmand province, has not given up hoping for a money windfall. "The crops of melons and watermelons are good this year. Last year I received 20,000 Afs (425 USD) from the melon fields, but this year I could earn 50,000 Afs (1,060 USD) from them."
Majeedullah Qarar, spokesman in the Agriculture Ministry, says there is a 5 percent increase in fruit production this year compared to 2010. He says 4,000 tonnes of fresh fruit was exported in just the last week. We have built 1,500 cold storages for fruits across the country, he says, adding. "We want to build cold storages in those areas where there are still no cold storages."
Fruit growers are still worried. Ismatullah, a resident of Herat province, says that he has a peach orchard on 4 jirib (1.91 acres). The peaches have ripened, but he has not found a market. "I could only sell the peaches on two jiribs and the rest is about to spoil. We don't earn the money we spend. Our fruits decay in our garden."
In southeastern Paktia province, Satar Khan, 42, from Ahmad Abad district, has not found either a good market or a place to store fruits. "Last year a lot of apples rotted. If the government does not do anything, we will suffer a loss again."
Too little rain and snow have played havoc with fruit crops in the north and northeastern parts of the country. Muhammadajan from Narkh district in Maidan Wardak province says his apricot harvest has decreased this year. Prices, as a result, are higher. "We sold seven kg of apricots from 20 to 100 Afs last year (one USD is roughly 46 Afs). This year the best apricots were sold from 180 to 250 Afs."
A drought in Kunduz, central Afghanistan, has affected fruit crops and reduced production by 80 percent. Muhammad Naseem, a 32-year-old fruit farmer in the province, says drought has damaged all crops, including fresh fruits.
Fruit traders confirm prices of some fruits have increased because of a decline in fresh fruit supplies in provinces affected by drought. "Currently this is the apricot season," says Haji Hamayoon, a trader. "They have decreased by 50 percent compared to last year. Last year we were receiving 20,000 cartons of apricots per night. Now we get 2,000 cartons."
Another fruit trader, Zia-ul-Haq, 34, says supplies from the Northern provinces have come down by 70 percent in the case of melons, and 90 percent for apricots. However, fresh fruits like grapes from Kandahar have increased.
Wahidullah Ghazi Khail, spokesman in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, says they have signed an agreement for fruit exports with Pakistan. "Last year the main problem was when fruits ripened in Afghanistan, there was a flood in Pakistan and Afghanistan which damaged lots of the fruits. This year we've signed an agreement which will solve the problem."
Under the agreement, Afghan traders can send fruits via Pakistan to third countries like India, Australia, UAE, and elsewhere in the Middle East, Europe and even to the US.
It is unclear if the agreement will be honoured. Khan Jan Alokozai, deputy of Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, says, Pakistan is not allowing our exports to third countries. "India is a major exporter, but Pakistan does not want our exports to go to that country." If Pakistan were to abide by the agreement, fruit growers would be assured of a market.