Trader representatives say 5,587 tonnes of grapes have so far been exported from southern Kandahar province, despite a low yield this year.
Kandahar Chamber of Commerce head Haji Nasrullah Zaheer told Pajhwok Afghan News there were three reasons that led to a reduced production of grapes in 2013.
The plants were affected by heavy rains and hailstorms before being attacked by black rot caused by fungus, he said. Most orchards were destroyed in Dand district, but those in Panjwai and Zherai remained safe to some extent.
Zaheer said though the harvest was in its last stages, yet six to seven trucks daily carried grapes from Kandahar to Pakistan.
“Until now, 5,587 tonnes of grapes worth $840,410 have been exported to Pakistan,” he said, adding the fruit could not be sent to India and the UAE this year due to low production.
He also informed orchard owners had started harvesting and exporting pomegranates, but the yield was low, compared to the previous year.
Pomegranates worth nearly $300,000 had been exported to Pakistan and shipments to India, Dubai, Germany and Japan would begin later on, he added.
The trader representative blamed the low yield on the government’s apathy to preventing plant diseases and protecting farms and orchards from natural disasters.
He said it was the agriculture department’s responsibility to assist farmers in coping with plant diseases by providing them with required medicines.
He alleged the agriculture department had failed to block supplies of substandard inputs to the market. The government has not been able to find a proper market for fruits produced in Afghanistan.
“We don’t have cargo planes to fly our fruits to foreign countries, but Pakistan has this facility. Pakistan and India sell Afghan products at home and in foreign markets under their own brand names,” he claimed.
About fruit packages, he said there were 18 factories making cartons but still more were imported from Pakistan. The imported packages carried flags of Pakistan and Afghanistan with labels of “Pakistani fruits.”
Orchard owners complained they had lost large amounts of grapes to diseases this year. Jalaluddin, an orchard owner from Dand district, said grape production hit a record low this year.
He owned 1,200 grape huts and orchards, but most of the plants were infected by diseases, but the agriculture department did not extend him any assistance.
Agriculture officials admitted they could not assist farmers under the prevailing circumstances. They said it was not possible for them to go to remote parts and spray the orchards.