MAZAR-I-SHARIF (Pajhwok): Prices of fruits and vegetables have more than halved in northern Balkh province due to the closure of Torkham crossing and Salang road, sellers say.
They lash out at Pakistan, saying the neighboring country closes the Torkham gate every year during harvest season of fruits and vegetables in Afghanistan under one pretext or another.
The sellers ask the government to construct cold storages for preservation of agricultural products in order to save farmers and traders from losses.
The Torkham gate remained closed for a ninth day in a row on Thursday after a clash between Afghan and Pakistani forces.
The government has closed the Salang highway for passenger and cargo vehicles due to reconstruction work inside the tunnel, but has opened alternative routes.
Syed Rahman, a vegetable trader in Balkh, told Pajhwok they exported agricultural products from Balkh to Kabul and Pakistan, but due to the closure of Salang and Torkham roads, prices of vegetables had halved.
He said farmers would sell seven kilos of tomatoes in their fields for 110 afghanis, but now the price had dropped to 40 afghanis.
He added Pakistan used to close the Torkham gate under different pretexts every year during harvest season of fruits and vegetables, causing huge losses to farmers and traders.
Rahman suggested the problem could be sold if the government constructed cold storages in the province as traders would not to sell their products at a throw-away price to Pakistan and other countries.
Agha Mohammad, another trader, said the closure of Torkham gate and the Salang road had created many problems for them.
He said the government should have first repaired the Shebar route before closing the Salang road. He said vegetables would reach Kabul and other provinces from Balkh within a day, but now it took three days to reach there.
Agha Mohammad said transport cost had significantly increased and they had to sell their products at half price in Balkh and other northern provinces.
“We can’t transport our goods to Kabul. The price of seven kilos of okra has decreased from 120 afghanis to 40 afghanis and pepper from 120 afghanis to 60 afghanis. The price of tomatoes has also halved.”
Fruit trader Nasrullah told Pajhwok that the prices of fruits had also gone down.
He said they would transfer watermelons, melons, apples and other fruits to Kabul from Balkh and other northern provinces, but now the fruits were sold in Balkh and their prices had more than halved.
He asked the government to construct cold storages so farmers and traders could preserve their products.
Balkh Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock department officials also acknowledge the problems of farmers and traders.
An official of the department, Mohammad Hussain Azimi told Pajhwok nearly a dozen cold storages existed in Mazar-i-Sharif with each having the capacity to store about 4,000 metric tons of products.
However, Azimi said some of the cold rooms were inactive due to high price of electricity.
He said the agriculture department planned to construct a number of large and standard cold storages in Balkh.
Besides Balkh, fruit and vegetable traders of some other provinces say they are selling their products at lower prices before they spoil due to the closure of Torkham gate.