Chamber of Agriculture and Livestock officials said Wednesday that 50 percent of the saffron exporting companies in the country have stopped operating due to a number of reasons including the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic turmoil in Afghanistan.
Chamber officials have appealed to the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock to take measures to help farmers cultivate saffron and grow the export sector.
The Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MoAIL) says that they have started the process of distributing saffron bulbs to farmers and that they are committed to supporting the sector.
Saffron is considered one of the most important agricultural products of the country, but in recent years, producers and exporters have faced many problems.
Industry experts said the pandemic had a huge impact on export volumes as did the political developments in the country.
According to the Agriculture and Livestock Chamber, although the country’s saffron is world famous, the situation is getting worse every day and half of the export companies have stopped operating.
“Our country’s saffron has a good name and good buyers in the international markets, and we hope that the sector ministries will pay serious attention to saffron,” said Mirwais Hajizada, the deputy of the Chamber of Agriculture and Livestock.
According to him, the number of active export companies in this sector was once 70, but now only 35 are still operational. Hundreds of people have also lost their jobs.
“Our problem is related to the last four years, and we are currently facing problems for export, and our production has also decreased. We must pay serious attention to this sector,” said Mohammad Naser Faizi, a member of the Saffron Exporters Association.
Ministry officials said they have expanded their efforts to develop the saffron sector and have started the process of distributing saffron bulbs to farmers in some provinces.
“We are trying to provide more facilities in the field of saffron cultivation, production and export so that we can have our customers in the international markets like before,” said Mawolavi Mesbahuddin Mustaeen, the ministry’s spokesperson.
Experts have said that with the ban on poppy farming, saffron could be a good alternative for these farmers.
Samanagan almond farmers happy with this year’s yield
Samangan officials said local farmers have reported a substantial increase in almond crops and that they collectively stand to earn more than 1.1 billion afghanis from this year’s harvest.
Samangan Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock Department director Najibullah Joya said: “During the last few days, the officials of this department have visited various parts of the province, where the most almond orchards are located.”
He said the estimated volume to be harvested will be about 4,620 tons, compared to last year’s 2,887 ton harvest.
“According to their calculations, gardeners will earn more than 1.1 billion afghanis from the sale of almond crops,” he said.
Meanwhile, dried fruit and nuts traders welcomed the increase.
One trader, Haji Naqibullah, from Aybak city said: “This year, Samangan almonds have a high yield,” adding that he has bought more than 50 tons of almonds already from farmers and sold them on.
Samangan officials said 40% of Samangan almonds are sold domestically while 60% are exported by companies and traders to India, Pakistan, and the United Arab Emirates.
New road, rail link sees Chinese cargo arrive in Hairatan after only 11 days
The first load of freight from China to Afghanistan on a new road and rail route transiting Central Asia arrived in Hairatan, in northern Afghanistan, on Thursday.
Twelve containers, carrying mostly vehicle parts, took only 11 days to reach Afghanistan.
The new multimodal route starts in China’s northwestern Xinjiang province then passes through Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan before entering Afghanistan.
The cargo traveled along the first stage – around 500 kilometers from the city of Kashgar in Xinjiang to Osh in southern Kyrgyzstan – by road since there is no rail link, although one is planned eventually.
The first containers left Kashgar on September 13, the RailFreight.com website reported.
At Osh, the cargo was loaded onto trains to link up with Uzbekistan’s rail network across the border in Andijan.
They then crossed eastern Uzbekistan and headed south into Afghanistan to arrive at Hairatan, which links with the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif along an Uzbek-built railway line.
The journey on the new route took only 11 days – compared to one to three months for the current route used to send cargo from China to Afghanistan through Pakistan via the seaport of Karachi and overland.
China and Afghanistan have been trying to get a rail connection off the ground for years.
In 2016, the first cargo train traveled from China to Hairatan through Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, loaded with textiles and household goods. But it took another three years before any cargo moved back along the route to China, when a train loaded with talcum powder made the journey in 2019.
The route across Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan is now undergoing a three-month pilot, and should eventually carry some 4,000 containers annually.
History in the making as 18 tons of pine nuts to be shipped overland to Italy
The Ministry of Industry and Trade said Thursday that a local company was preparing to export 18 tons of pine nuts to Italy overland.
According to ministry officials, the private company meets international standards and will dispatch its consignment within the next few days.
Officials also said in the first three months of this year, $19 million worth of pine nuts was exported and that there is a growing demand for the local produce.
It is estimated that Afghanistan harvests around 30,000 tons of pine nuts every year.
However, this Italian-bound consignment will for the first time be shipped overland via Turkey.
“This is a new export by land, which will be exported from Afghanistan to Turkey first, and then to Italy, and now we have the capacity to prepare our products according to the standards of European markets,” said Abdulsalam Akhundzada Jawad, the spokesman of the Ministry of Industry and Trade.
In the past, pine nut distributors have complained about the export process as the produce was first sent to Pakistan and from there sold on to international buyers.
The Chamber of Industries and Mines says that 30,000 tons of pine nut oil is produced annually in the country and is exported to China, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, India and Pakistan by air and land.
“We consider it important to export Afghan black pine nuts to Italy, and since there is a high export capacity in Afghanistan, the Ministry of Industry and Trade should provide the conditions for export,” said Mohammad Karim Azimi, executive director of the Kabul Chamber of Industries and Mines.
Economic experts say that if the Ministry of Industry and Trade solves the transit problems faced by exporters, Afghanistan will be able to substantially increase sales of dry and fresh fruits to international markets.
“Exporting black pine nuts to European markets is very important. Besides black pine nuts, we have other very important trade and export items in the country, which should be provided for export, which is considered very important for the Afghan economy,” said Taj Mohammad Tala, an economic analyst.
Following the collapse of the former government, air cargo corridors used for exporting fresh produce were stopped. However, business owners are hopeful that newly launched overland trade corridors will now fill the gap and open up even wider markets.
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