KANADAHAR CITY (Pajhwok): Pomegranate production in southern Kandahar province has increased this year but the juicy fruit’s exports have declined, officials and orchard-owners say.
Chamber of Commerce and Industry officials and farmers linked the flagging exports to pomegranate diseases and the poor quality of the harvest
Shamsullah, a pomegranate gardener from Arghandab district, told Pajhwok Afghan News plenty of water was available this year. As a result, pomegranate produce is high but its quality is poor.
He said pomegranate orchards had been attacked by a variety of diseases. With the harvest season around the corner, he added, most of the pomegranates had cracked and could not be exported.
Subsequently, the grower explained, pomegranate exports had been low this year, adversely affecting farmers and fruit merchants.
Abdul Bari, another grower from the Munari area of the district, complained half of the pomegranates had split and were thus not exportable.
He said only Arghandab district, Kandahar’s biggest pomegranate producer, had yielded quality and disease-free fruit this year.
The grower grumbled that the government had had not provided him with the assistance necessary to detect and control the diseases.
Haji Naseer Ahmad, a fresh fruit merchant, told Pajhwok he had exported pomegranates to Pakistan only once this year. Even the transport cost could not be met due to the low quality of the fruit, he regretted.
The pomegranate quality had deteriorated on the one hand and Pakistan had increased taxes on fresh fruits on the other, the exporter lamented.
In the past, he recalled, an amount of Rs30,000 would be charged on a truckload of pomegranate. But now Rs80,000 to Rs100,000 are charged per vehicle.
Haji Nasrullah Zaheer, head of the Kandahar Chamber of Commerce and Industry, confirmed although the pomegranate harvest was higher, but its quality was poorer, restricting exports.
Pomegranates are being exported only to Pakistan and India this year. So far, about 21,370 tonnes of the fruit worth $4 million had been exported to those countries, Zaheer informed.
The Afghan embassy in Indonesia has requested four tonnes of pomegranates this year, but canceled the deal because of the poor quality of the fruit.
Agriculture Director Sayed Hafizullah Sayedi also acknowledged the higher pomegranate produce in the province this year.
However, the quality was poorer, he explained, insisting that they had provided technical assistance and guidelines to gardeners on how to prevent crop diseases.
The number of pomegranate orchards increase 5 to 10 percent annually as part of various programmes by the private sector and the agriculture department.
The pomegranate yield in Kandahar recently reached 2,000 tonnes, he said, promising that his department would work hard to improve the quality of the fruit.