Receive free updates in Afghanistan
We will send you a myFT Daily Digest e-mail to cover the latest news about Afghanistan every morning.
Afghanistan’s fruit crops are rotting in the sun as businesses struggle to export the products in the latest sign of economic paralysis facing the country weeks after the Taliban took power.
While the illicit drugs and opium trade massive, dried and fresh fruits such as grapes and figs are the largest legal export in Afghanistan. The country supplies much of the fruits and nuts eaten in Pakistan and India, which together account for about 80 percent of Afghanistan’s exports.
The fruits of the fruit trade, which follow ancient side routes from Central to South Asia, illustrate the severe blow that the Afghanistan’s economy has suffered since the Taliban regained control in August.
Many of the fighting that preceded the victory of the militants took place around the economically necessary border crossings of the country, while the banking system remains in disarray and there is a lack of money. The export blockades cut off a major source of foreign exchange.
Exporters struggle to access enough working capital at overloaded banks, are unable to take payment from their overseas buyers and experience long delays border with Pakistan.
Jalalurahman, the 35-year-old owner of Era Fruits in the southern province of Kandahar, said his latest trucks with figs and raisins took eight days to cross the Wesh-Chaman border with Pakistan, instead of the usual two hours. . It is destined to proceed by sea to India.
‘There is no transfer of white [legal] money to banks, ”said Jalalurahman. ‘Half of our money is blocked here in the banks, and half is back with our customers in India. . . We’re still trying to export just to survive, but there are too many problems. ”
He said the only alternative was the ‘underground’ area of the region hawala system, in which informal money transfers were arranged by a network of merchants. But its customers are reluctant to use the system, which is illegal in India and Pakistan.
Ahmad Zobair Amiri, a 40-year-old exporter of grapes and melons in Kabul, said domestic prices had halved after the economic crisis brought small luxuries such as fruit out of reach for many Afghans.
Many of his products rotted during the arrests at the overcrowded Torkham border crossing to Pakistan, and he does not have the cold storage facilities to keep his fruit fresh.
“Many of our goods were destroyed by the sun because they had been in containers for a long time,” he said. “They melted away.”
Many of the dried fruits and nuts are destined for the Khari Baoli market in the historic walled city of Delhi. Afghanistan is India’s largest supplier of dried fruit, accounting for about two – thirds of India’s total exports of $ 500 million.
They are especially in demand in the run-up to India’s important Diwali festival in early November.
Dinesh Chawla, owner of the Lahore Dry Fruits store in Khari Baoli, buys his apricots, almonds, raisins and pistachios from Afghanistan. He said supply was starting to fall back after a shock in the weeks following the takeover of the Taliban, which caused prices to rise sharply.