Grapes worth $8 million have been exported from southern Kandahar province this season, showing a significant increase, the provincial chapter of the Afghanistan Chambers of Commerce (ACCI) and Industries said.
Up to 40,000 tonnes of grapes were sent abroad this year, ACCI chief for Kandahar Eng. Abdul Baqi Beena told Pajhwok Afghan News, linking the export boost to the creation of new gardens and expansion of existing ones in different parts of the province.Most of the grapes were exported to neighbouring Pakistan, which in turn sold the fruit to Arab countries, according to the official. He explained Pakistani merchants had reaped good profits from the Afghan grapes.He identified unreliable ground and air transportation as a big hurdle to the export of grapes and other fresh fruits from Kandahar to the international market. The present transport system did not have cooling arrangements for fruit shipments, the ACCI official explained, saying they were allowed to take their trade items up to the Wagah border between Pakistan and India.Beena also pointed to high airfares, complaining the airlifting cost often outstripped the fruit price. He believed mechanised farming and export facilities would spur the economy significantly.For most exporters, the immediate destination is Pakistan, which often seals the common border in the prevailing security situation. As a result, the ACCI provincial chief argued, fruit-laden trucks were denied entry. As the fruits go rotten because of border closures, merchants suffer heavy losses. One trader said his grapes and pomegranates recently went rotten after Pakistani border guards kept the vehicles stranded.Confirming the problem, exporter Haji Ahmad requested the relevant authorities to address the issue and ensure their access to the international market.A grower from the Talokan village of Panjwai district, Haji Noor Jan, said the insurgents closed roads and planted bombs in their orchards around the harvest time. Fighting often impedes fruit transportation, causing farmers losses.