KANDAHAR CITY (Pajhwok): Pomegranate produce has increased by 20 percent in southern Kandahar province despite being damaged by pest attacks and autumn rains.
Kandahar orchard owners and traders say that recent rainfalls damaged 70 percent of pomegranate harvest in the province.
On the other hand, Pakistan has made a three-fold in tax on Kandahar pomegranate, resulting in reduced exports to the neighboring country.
This and some other factors have caused huge losses to Kandahar orchard owners.
Mohammad Qasim, a orchard owner in Arghandab district, told Pajhwok Afghan News that pomegranate yield this year was higher despite being attacked by pests and damaged by rainfalls.
He said orchard owners were struggling with how to cope with different types of pests when autumn rains hit the fruit.
“”It was the reason, I sold my garden for 400,000 afghanis compared to last year’s 800,000 afghanis.”
He said tax increase by Pakistan on Kandahar pomegranate was another cause affecting orchard owners.
Pakistan in the past charged 100 Pakistani rupees per crate of pomegranate but now they charged 330 Pakistani rupees, he added.
Another orchard owner, Haji Nazar Mohammad, had similar complaint and said pomegranate production was higher this year but the quality was low.
He said pests and rainfalls critically damaged pomegranate yields. “That is why the prices dropped by almost a half this year”, he said.
Last year, 4.5 kilograms of pomegranate were sold for 400 to 500 afghanis but now their priced hovered between 200 to 250 afghanis, he added.
He said orchard owners would continue to suffer losses until the government helped them in fighting pests, building cold storages and finding alternative exporting sources.
“The government talks about opening of air corridors, but Kandahar exported some fruits only in the first two years while there was not even a single flight this year,” he added.
Sayed Hafizullah Sayedi, Kandahar agriculture director, said that pomegranate production in the province increased by 20 percent this year but the fruit was damaged by pests and rainfalls. Pomegranate production this year in Kandahar would be 168,000 tons.
He said exports reduced compared to the past due to high taxation in Pakistan and low quality of pomegranate.
About dealing with pests, he said his department had distributed 150,000 bags of pesticide powder to orchard owners and provided awareness to them but those efforts were not enough.
Sayedi said he was trying to find solution to the problem of pests and building cold storages in cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL).
Haji Mohammad Younus Momand, deputy head of Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that Kandahar pomegranates encountered pests and some other problems this year and MAIL also did nothing for controlling it.
However, he said despite these problems, Kandahar exported 33,000 tons of the fruit to Pakistan, India and some other countries this year.
About high tax on pomegranate in Pakistan, he said both the countries were working to reduce zero tariff on some fruits from both countries.
He said it would hugely improve trade between the two countries if taxes were reduced on fresh fruit exports.