A group of farmers from Maidan Wardak province, 123 km west of Kabul, have complained about low market prices, the lack of cold storage facilities and the influx of cheap foreign produce.
Wardak residents said they grow apples of good quality, which are much like those imported from Iran but their produce is sold for less than what it costs them to grow.
Apple traders meanwhile said they are banned from exporting their apples to Pakistan and are forced to sell their produce on local markets for only 100 AFs for every seven kilograms, when in fact it costs them 300 AFs for every seven kgs.
One farmer, who threw his apples on the ground in protest over government’s lack of action to prevent the cheap imports from Iran and China, said they urgently need government’s help.
“I have spent 300 AFs on seven kilograms but I have to resell them for 100 AFs. People are not buying them even at this low price,” said a localapple trader.
The farmers and investors said dozens of vehicles loaded with Maidan Wardak apples are in Kabul, and traders have been waiting for days to sell the produce but have been unable to because the market is inundated with imported fruit.
“Government should do a similar action. As Pakistan is not allowing us to export (our fruit to that country), our government should not allow Pakistan’s fruit to enter our markets,” Amin Khan, a farmer, said.
Government this year said it would make sure that Afghan fruit was purchased for government departments but farmers and traders have said this has not happened.
“Contractors are buying foreign fruit,” Hakimullah, a civil society activist, said. “Government should ask its contractors and make it clear whetherpurchased goods should be local or foreign.”
The farmers meanwhile said this was just the beginning of their protest action.
“This is the start of our protest. We will expand it and will close the Maidan Wardak Highway if our demands are not addressed,” Ahmadzai Ahmadi, a resident of Maidan Wardak, said.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock, Akbar Rustami, meanwhile said some cold storage facilities will be built for local investors and farmers in provinces.
“A lesser amount of fruit and vegetables are kept in provinces during the winter season due to a lack of cold storage facilities. This problem will beresolved as government will build eight cold storage facilities, each of them with a capacity of 5,000 tons,” Rustami said.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, the ban on the export of Afghan fruit to Pakistan is because of the lack of quality control certificates after quarantine and that this was up to Pakistan to sort out.