Sun, Sep

The fruit with “delicious profit”‎


Pomegranate-1Lying in the shade of a pomegranate tree, Sardar Wali, 50, looks forward to an ‎abundant crop. Pointing at the fruit on the trees, he said, “Do you see these ‎pomegranates? Once they’re ripe, their seeds will be visible even through the skin. ‎They fetch a very good price. Most people give these pomegranates to friends and ‎relatives as a gift.”‎

The 2,000 pomegranate trees in Wali’s orchard in Kandahar province produce up to ‎‎112 tons of fruit a year, and these days there is no shortage of buyers.‎
‎“As soon as our pomegranate trees blossom, the traders come and talk to us. They buy ‎up the whole orchard,” he told the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR).‎
Pomegranates have always been an important crop in Afghanistan, and production has ‎revived over the last decade. In Kandahar province, farmers say pomegranates offer a ‎viable alternate to poppy.‎
‎“People are now more interested in planting pomegranate orchards than poppy, ‎because the revenue is good and it isn’t illegal, either. I want pomegranates on the rest ‎of my land, too,” Wali said.‎
Sher Mohammad, an agriculture official, said that the area covered by pomegranate ‎orchards was on the increase, and that 300 new plantations had appeared in ‎Arghandab district alone.‎Pomegranate-2
‎“We organise workshops for orchard owners on growing and protecting different ‎fruits,” he said. “Public awareness sessions have been held in every district and a ‎farmers’ association has been set up which now provides cut-price pomegranate ‎saplings at a lower price in some districts.”‎
Abdul Baqi, deputy chairman of the Kandahar Chamber of Commerce, said that up to ‎‎7,000 tons of pomegranates, worth 1.5 million US dollars, were exported last year, on ‎top of the grapes, melons, almonds, raisins and figs grown in the province and sold ‎abroad.‎
Most pomegranates went to India, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates, he said, ‎although for the last five years some had been flown via Dubai to The Netherlands ‎and Germany.‎
Farmers and traders seem happy with their earnings.‎
‎“My cousin had pomegranates planted on 40,000 square metres of land,” Kandahar ‎resident Pahlawan said. “He expanded the orchard over a further 10,000 sq m last ‎year. The fact that he created a new orchard shows that pomegranates make a good ‎profit.”‎
Shah Agha, an elderly gardener with a lot of experience of tending saplings, said his ‎skills were now in high demand.‎
‎“When the season for saplings starts in October and November, I have no spare time. ‎It isn’t easy to prune the saplings; it takes skill and a steady hand. I make no mistakes ‎with my saplings, so my services are sought after.”‎
Sher Agha said he believed pomegranate cultivation was reducing the scale of poppy ‎farming in Kandahar.‎
Local traders are also cashing in.‎
Nurullah, a large-scale trader, said the market was booming, although cold storage ‎facilities were going to be needed as production expanded.‎
‎“I bought 100,000 dollars-worth of pomegranates last year. I exported some and sold ‎the rest to other provinces within the country,” he said. “I made a delicious profit.”‎