The subsidized air routes, commonly known as air corridors, will soon become operational as President Ghani has approved a proposal of the Ministry of Finance for allocating 168 million Afs (over $2 million) to the project, officials said today.
The air corridors operation was stopped in mid-March after which the export of Afghan products, including pine nuts and carpets, to abroad, mainly China, was stopped.
If not subsidized, investors would pay $3.2 for the export of each kilogram of pine nuts. Figures show that so far, at least 6,000 tons of pine nuts have been exported abroad, mainly to China, through air corridors.
Officials from the Ministry of Finance said that 345 million Afs ($4.4 million) was allocated to subsidized exports through air routes in the current fiscal year’s budget, but it was spent in the first quarter of the year and this left the government to owe at least $1 million to $3 million to each aviation companies that are operating in air corridors.
“Based on the proposal of the Ministry of Finance and the approval of the Presidential Palace, 168 million Afs was deducted from projects that lacked the capacity for investment and was allocated to the air corridors,” said Rafi Tabe, a spokesman for the Ministry of Finance.
The business community said the illegal export of pine nuts has increased as the government has stopped the subsidized export of the dry fruit through air routes. According to the investors, at least 50% of Afghan pine nuts have been “smuggled” to Pakistan over the last two months.
“Right now, Pakistan is the first choice for world investors. Pakistan investors have direct access to the Afghan market… They import the pine nuts and process it and then send it to other countries under the name of Pakistan,” said Mahboobullah Gardezi, head of a pine nuts processing firm in Kabul.
The budget that has been considered for the process this time is half of the amount that was spent in the first quarter of the fiscal year 1400 that started in December 2020.
“The government should allocate realistic amounts for it based on the previous experiences they had,” said Shafiqullah Ataee, CEO of the Chamber of Trade and Investment.
Pine nuts exports said they pay 5% of the expenses for the dry fruit exports through air routes if it is subsidized by the government.