It has been a good season for peach farmers in Balkh in terms of yield, yet the lack of markets to sell the produce is a major problem.
Farmers say that every acre of a peach orchard is worth 150 thousand afghanis--if the fruit could be sold.
It is harvest time in Balkh province and the peaches are ripe. The farmers are happy about the success of the yield.
German and Turkish-sourced peaches are most prominent in Balkh and also popular in the domestic markets.
Nazar Mohammad, a farmer in the Dehdadi district of Balkh, who grows peaches on one and a half acres of land, says “We have German and Turkish-sourced peaches, they (trees) are full and very productive this year.”
“We get four to six boxes of peaches (12 to 14 kg in weight) from every tree, which are then sold for up to 600 afghanis,” stated Ghulam Mohammad, another farmer.
Farmers say that the government needs to work on searching for markets suitable for agricultural produce, as well as to develop agriculture-related capacity within the country--such as storage.
“Due to not having cold storage, the market for these fruits is not great. We get a good harvest, it takes a lot of effort, but the reward in the market is a low price,” said Mirwais, a farmer.
In recent years, agriculture has changed the lives of a number of farmers in Balkh, who say they have flourished economically.
“Years ago, farmers planted cereals and vegetables without legitimate gardens, and they [farmers] worked hard and earned 30,000 to 35,000 afghanis from one acre of land, but with one acre of a peach garden today, farmers earn 140,000 to 150,000 Afghanis,” said Abdullah Rahmani, head of the national agricultural project in the Dehdadi district of Balkh province.
Abdul Fahim Jabbari, head of the National Agriculture Project at the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation in the north of the country, says they have built fruit gardens across more than 15,000 acres of land in Balkh since 2010.
“Fruits grown in Balkh are generally early fruits that are exported to cold areas. Nowadays, peaches and apricots are imported to Kabul,” said Jabari.
“It is the season for peaches, apricots and black plums, all which are currently supplied to the markets and fortunately the yield of these three fruits is very high, which increased by more than twenty percent," stated Mohammad Salim Saee, head of the agriculture directorate in Balkh.
Currently, peaches are sold in the markets of Mazar-e-Sharif and other northern provinces of the country for about 80 to 100 Afghanis per kilogram.