Fate of Afghan Fruit Export to Pakistan…

Frosty relations between Kabul and Islamabad have put a
brake on Afghanistan’s ambitious plans to boost fruit exports, according to
Pomegranates and grapes have long been the pride of Afghan
agriculture, but exports from the landlocked country have suffered due to poor
air connectivity and frequent closures of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
The sight of hundreds of long-haul trucks stuck along border
towns became all too common in 2016, with tonnes of fruits and perishable items
going to waste and forcing some farmers to return to the most lucrative
cultivation of poppy.
“We invested huge sums of money on growing fresh fruits in
our orchards,” grape farmer Abdul Samad from Panjwai district in southern Kandahar
He said the farmers were very frustrated that the border was
shut during harvest season. “We have no choice but to return to poppy farming.
It will fetch us a lot more money than fruits.”
Pakistan sporadically shut the main border crossings as tensions
flared due to firing incidents between the troops of the two countries.
Pakistan announced in June that it was planning more
checkposts and fencing along the 2,600-kilometre frontier to filter the flow of
militants. The move prompted consternation from Afghanistan which does not
officially recognise the Durand Line as the international border.
In 2015 around 52,000 tonnes of pomegranates were exported
to Pakis¬tan, the UAE and India. Last year the exports dropped to 15,000
tonnes, a small fraction of the total production. Other fruit exports also
“We were ready and hoping to export up to 40,000 tonnes of
grapes from Kandahar, but Pakistan closed the gate for 17 days [in October],
not allowing our traders to export their produce,” claimed Nasrullah Zaheer,
head of the Afghan chamber of commerce in Kandahar.
Agriculture Minister Assadullah Zamir accused Pakistan of
using border security “as a pretext to sabotage Afghan exports and shield its
own farmers from competition”.
“This is not the first time that border closures have
happened. We had exactly the same issue in 2015 during harvest time,” he said,
without stating the estimated monetary losses.
“But we are here to support our farmers and the government
is willing to cover a part of alternative transportation costs such as air
cargo,” he added.
New Delhi recently announced it would launch an air-cargo
link between Afghanistan and India that would help it bypass its border issues
and open new markets for traders.
The plans, however, remain at initial stages, frustrating
For years, Afghanistan has tried to give farmers alternatives
such as fruit crops and saffron to wean them away from poppy farming — the
lifeblood of the Taliban insurgency.
But those efforts are failing and opium remains an economic
linchpin for many Afghans.
Farmers need not bother with exports as a sprawling network
of drug smugglers picks up opium produce directly from their farms, offering
lucrative prices that normally far exceed the income from traditional
Last year, Afghanistan saw a 10 per cent jump in opium
cultivation compared to the previous year because of bumper harvests,
collapsing eradication efforts and declining international aid to combat drugs.
“Even if the government arrests us we are determined to grow
poppy,” said Kandahar farmer Abdul Shukoor.

“Pakistan closes the border randomly and our government is
doing nothing.”

Source: Pakistan Today

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